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Project Safe Childhood

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Project Safe Childhood (PSC) is a Department of Justice initiative designed to reduce the occurrence of the sexual exploitation of minors within the United States.  PSC works to form collaborative partnerships of federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies in order to efficiently and thoroughly investigate and prosecute those who exploit children.  This exploitation may be seen in the form of (1) child pornography, (2) online enticement of children for sexual purposes, (3) commercial sexual exploitation of children, and (4) child sex tourism.

Under the PSC initiative, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota is committed to protecting and providing a safer environment for all children in today’s complicated world.  To do this, the United States Attorney’s Office pursues the aggressive investigation and prosecution of those who pose a threat to the children of North Dakota, as well as educating the public on the growing risks of child exploitation. 

Child pornography makes up the bulk of child exploitation cases prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota.  Federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) defines child pornography as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct.  Federal law also prohibits knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute any visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Advancements in technology over the past two decades have also led to increased occurrences of online enticement of children for sexual purposes, with nearly every American child having access to the Internet at home, in school, or in public libraries.  But with these advancements have come new obstacles for parents, educators, and law enforcement personnel as they work to maintain a safe environment for children to live and grow in.  Recent statistics compiled by the Department of Justice in the National Strategy Report paint an alarming picture of the Internet environment that American children are exposed to on a daily basis.  It is estimated that at any given time, at least 50,000 predators use the Internet to actively seek out children.  Approximately one in five children will receive an unwanted sexual solicitation annually, and one in 33 children will be subject to an aggressive sexual solicitation.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children and child sex tourism have also become growing problems in North Dakota and across the United States. Commercial sexual exploitation of children, or child prostitution, refers to the sexual solicitation of minors. Although comprehensive research documenting the number of children engaged in prostitution in the United States is lacking, the Department of Justice estimates that at least 293,000 American youth are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.  Child sex tourism, or traveling to foreign countries with the intent to engage in sexual activity with a child, has also become an area of concern for the Department of Justice in recent years.  According to the International Labour Organization, 2-14% of the gross domestic product of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillipines, and Thailand comes from sex tourism.

In response to these issues, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota has diligently followed the Department of Justice’s plan to create a safer environment for American children.  This plan includes (1) expanding partnerships between law enforcement agencies by partnering with the North Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (IAC) in prosecuting child exploitation matters and identifying, rescuing, and assisting child victims; (2) coordinating cases under the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS); (3) increasing federal involvement in child exploitation investigations; (4) training federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies; and (5) increasing community awareness and education. 

 

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