Thank you, Ernie, and hello, everyone.
It always feels good to be here in the company of the dedicated people who work at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and I appreciate the time that many of you are taking, away from your families, to participate in this program.
NCMEC is hosting the first in a series of training programs that we’ll be having all over the country. I believe it will prove critical in making this year, the second year of Project Safe Childhood, a very successful one, indeed.
This training is important. And I want to be very clear as to why.
To a pedophile or a sexual predator, our children are prey. The pedophile hunts our children.
It is our responsibility, in law enforcement and as adults, to find the predators first. To bring them to justice before they catch their prey: our kids. Pedophiles watch our children from the shadows. They lie in wait, studying, planning to ensnare and violate the innocent.
So we must watch them from our vantage point. We must study the predator, and carefully plan our course of action for their capture and prosecution.
At this training program, you will learn how to best pursue them, to interrupt their sadistic hunt. Together, we can make these hunters feel like they are the hunted. Because we all pray for, and work for, a day when children in this country are safe from the leering eyes, the insidious stalking, and the unthinkable cruelty that pedophiles inflict upon them.
Anyone who has worked on a crimes-against-children case knows that pedophiles aren’t your average criminal.
Investigators are often aided by the foolishness of thieves, for example. Rarely so with the pedophile. He is often very smart. He studies his victims. He looks for places where children gather and times where they are vulnerable to attack or enticement. He learns their habits and weaknesses and plans accordingly. Or, if the target is within the predator's own home, as is often and sadly the case, he knows how to conceal the sexual abuse from his neighbors.
As part of your training, you will study the pedophile – his methods, his online tactics – and the tools we have to catch him. You’ll learn more about how to look for his hiding places on the internet. More about how to investigate a Cybertipline Lead. New ways to work with digital evidence. And how to use the federal system as another weapon in your arsenal – whether it provides you with a stronger sentence or helps extract a plea.
Sexual predators have also developed a network – they encourage and help each other in their twisted goals. This week, we’ll work on our network.
Predators have found camaraderie online. In their quest to exploit children, they seek advice from their peers in chat rooms. Tips are shared on how to become a foster parent or where to become a camp counselor. This network enhances their terrifying abilities as individual hunters of children.
As part of your training here, we will work on our camaraderie, our network. You will learn from your peers, and they from you. In fact, our ability to work seamlessly together at the state, local, and federal levels, is the most important part of the arsenal we are building against those who seek to hurt our kids. It’s what Project Safe Childhood is all about.
And it’s what makes this training program so important and unique. You are here with law-enforcement colleagues from all of those levels. We don’t want you to leave without getting to know them and being absolutely convinced that they are part of your team and you a part of theirs.
Through this program, we will increase our traction against the pedophiles by strengthening the family of law enforcement. Think of it this way: we must function like a family to protect American families.
When state and local law enforcement can work as easily and naturally with federal prosecutors as you already do with your district attorneys, Project Safe Childhood will be living up to its goals.
We witnessed a good example of this very recently, at the end of January, when cooperative work by the FBI, the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Police Department, the Bismarck, North Dakota Police Department and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation led to a man being charged with traveling across state lines with intent to have illicit sexual conduct with a minor.
In that case, investigators and prosecutors are working seamlessly together to try the case in the appropriate jurisdiction and seeking maximum penalties.
Also in January, in a case where city, county, and federal investigators worked together to build the case, a former nurse pleaded guilty to using a minor in his custody to produce child pornography. While working at the Missouri State Veterans Home, William Price repeatedly drugged a minor victim, and, while she was unconscious, videotaped himself molesting and raping her. The U.S. Attorney said that never before had he encountered anything so “revoltingly sadistic and morally repugnant.”
Those cases are strong examples of the immeasurable good that can come from cooperation. We cannot measure how many children have been spared by the incarceration of just those two men.
Constantly expanding our ability to work that way – together, quickly, and effectively – is our tactical goal.
We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Because it works. And because when I reassure American parents that we are doing everything possible to protect their children, I don’t want just a few great examples of cooperation. I want it to be the standard operating procedure for everyone involved in PSC, nationally.
For PSC partners, I want the titles of “state,” “federal,” and “local” to be just that, mere titles.
I have instructed U.S. Attorneys to put out the welcome mat to all law enforcement. Because to make this initiative work, everyone needs to sit down together and decide which jurisdiction works best for each case.
This conference will prepare you to work most effectively and efficiently with federal prosecutors once you’ve passed that welcome mat and are sitting at the table, together.
I am deeply grateful for the work you are already doing on Project Safe Childhood, and for the work you will do in the months and years ahead. You are the cavalry of what the President has called the “armies of compassion” – rising up to battle the evils of our society.
Here, today, you will prepare your mounts and load your packs. You will ready yourselves for the righteous pursuit of the criminals who treat children as prey.
I think the President put it very well when he signed the Adam Walsh Act. He said: “Protecting our children is our solemn responsibility. It's what we must do. When a child's life or innocence is taken it is a terrible loss -- it's an act of unforgivable cruelty. Our society has a duty to protect our children from exploitation and danger.”
My friends, we have the power to change the battlefield, and specifically, as I said before, turn the tables on the hunters. The victory of safe childhoods will be our legacy.
People often ask me what keeps me up at night. Obviously the threat of a terrorist attack never leaves my mind, and it is the top priority of our government to keep that from happening.
But it is the faces of child victims that haunt my dreams. I can see their eyes, that awful emptiness, as if their young souls are trying to detach themselves from their desecrated bodies.
Like you, I see the victims’ images as part of my work. But now they are part of my heart, and I am not going to tire in this fight to protect them.
We must bring pedophiles and predators to justice before they touch one more child.
With the tools of this training in hand, you will be even better prepared than you already are to go out, track these criminals down, and take them off of our streets.
I look forward to the victories ahead. The day when we catch and prosecute the criminal who is buying child pornography and has signed up to be a summer camp counselor… but hasn’t yet touched a child.
A day when justice is served before an already-abusive parent invites his daughter’s friends over for a slumber party.
A day when we never hear from the people who brag on the Internet about being revolutionaries, fighting for the so-called “sexual rights of children” – as though they are doing kids a favor by sexually molesting and exploiting them.
I want these pedophiles off the streets.
I want them put away for as long as the law will allow.
And I want law enforcement to act as a united front against this threat.
You and I won’t tolerate the continued victimization, exploitation and desecration of our children.
I look forward to the day when no one else in this nation will, either.
I want to close with the story of recent PSC case in Oklahoma City, where a man was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for enticing a 10-year-old girl to engage in sexually explicit conduct and then videotaping the assault.
In an incredible twist of fate, the man’s crime was discovered by three teenagers who were committing their own crime – stealing the predator’s video camera. After watching the tape in the stolen camera, the three teenagers told their parents what a terrible thing they’d seen. The parents then told local police, and a joint investigation by local, state, and federal investigators was initiated. The rest, as they say, is history. And today, the children of Oklahoma City are safe from a dangerous predator.
I find hope in the unexpected. When even juvenile delinquents are helping to catch pedophiles and predators, we can’t help but be inspired to press on in this battle that can be very difficult … but that I believe defines justice.
Thank you again for coming to this program. May God bless and guide your important work, may He protect our children and may He continue to bless this great nation. Thank you.