Defending Childhood is an initiative of Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. that strives to harness resources from across the Department of Justice to:
- Prevent children’s exposure to violence;
- Mitigate the negative impact of children’s exposure to violence when it does occur; and
- Develop knowledge and spread awareness about children’s exposure to violence.
"We’ve got to break this cycle of violence. Through enhanced prevention, intervention, and accountability efforts, I believe we can. And I know that this work begins by coming together and reinvigorating our commitment to collaboration."
—Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
The growing threat of sexual exploitation crimes committed against children through the Internet is a disturbing and unacceptable trend. The Department of Justice is committed to the safety and well-being of every child and has placed a high priority on protecting and combating sexual exploitation of minors.
Much has been accomplished, but more must be done. For example, the Attorney General of the United States initiated, as part of Project Safe Childhood, an initiative designed to protect our children as they navigate the Internet.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island (USAO/RI) embraces its commitment to the protection of our children. Advances in technology over the past two decades have brought about new obstacles for parents, educators, and law enforcement.
The statistics are alarming. One in five children per year receives an unwanted sexual solicitation online. One in thirty-three children per year receives an aggressive sexual solicitation. And perhaps most disturbing, at any given time, 50,000 predators are on the Internet actively seeking out children.
The USAO/RI is committed to aggressively implementing programs and targeting those who would harm children in order to provide a safer environment for all children in today’s ever expanding and complicated world. Collaborative efforts between federal, state, and local law enforcement not only facilitate the sharing of resources but ensure that the most dangerous offenders receive the most serious punishment available.
The goal of the educational components of the USAO/RI’s PSC program is to raise the public’s awareness about the threat and prevalence of online sexual predators and to provide the tools and information to educators, parents, and children to help reduce the likelihood of harm to children and to assist law enforcement in their investigations through the reporting of incidents involving minors.
Additionally, this educational component of the PSC program assists law enforcement in their investigations by raising the community’s awareness of incidents involving minors and improving the community’s willingness to report these incidents.
Project Safe Childhood Initiative
Key Components of the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood
Project Safe Childhood has been implemented through a partnership of U.S. Attorneys, ICAC Task Forces, and other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in each district to investigate and prosecute crimes against children facilitated through the Internet or other electronic media and communications devices. Communities design and execute programs tailored specially for their individual needs while maximizing national resources and expertise. There are five key components to this initiative:
- Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases: Each U.S. Attorney will partner with ICAC Task Forces that exist within his or her district and other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners working in the district to implement Project Safe Childhood. Working with these partners, U.S. Attorneys will develop district-specific strategic plans to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of child exploitation crimes; efforts to identify and rescue victims; and local training, educational, and awareness programs.
- Major case coordination by the Criminal Division: The Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, in conjunction with the FBI’s Innocent Images Unit, will fully integrate the Project Safe Childhood Task Forces into pursuing local leads generated from its major national operations.
- Increased federal involvement in child pornography and enticement cases: Given the beneficial investigative tools and stiffer punishment available under federal law, U.S. Attorneys and the federal investigative agencies will be expected to increase the number of sexual exploitation investigations and prosecutions. The goal is to ensure the worst offenders get the maximum amount of jail time possible.
- Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement: Members of the Project Safe Childhood Task Forces will attend training programs facilitated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the ICAC program, and other ongoing programs, in order to be taught to investigate and prosecute computer-facilitated crimes against children, as well as to pursue leads from national operations and from NCMEC’s CyberTipline and Child Victim-Identification programs.
- Community awareness and educational programs: Project Safe Childhood will partner with existing national public awareness and educational programs that exist through NCMEC and the ICAC Task Force program, in order to raise national awareness about the threat of online sexual predators and to provide the tools and information to parents and youngsters seeking to report possible violations.