Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning, everyone. Thank you, [U.S. Attorney] John [Horn], for the introduction, and for your good work in the Northern District of Georgia.
My thanks also to [Acting Administrator] Eileen Garry and the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for organizing this week’s training. I’d also like to recognize our federal partners and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their support of this training.
Finally, I’m grateful to all of you — more than 1,500 good people from all levels of law enforcement who have gathered here in Atlanta to learn more about protecting the most vulnerable among us — our children. You embody the best of what law enforcement is all about.
One privilege of being Attorney General is the chance to lead and support those of you who combat child exploitation. I am proud to represent our outstanding federal agents and investigators, prosecutors, and victim support specialists.
And I am grateful that we work alongside such tremendous partners at the state, local, and tribal levels.
Through his Executive Orders, President Trump has directed the Department of Justice to reduce crime and make our country safe again.
All of our citizens deserve to live free from the threat of harm — especially our young people. So our efforts to improve public safety will make the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking a top priority.
It is hard for any of us to believe that child exploitation happens — but it does. And it takes a special type of person to investigate and prosecute these despicable crimes. It demands courage and compassion, resilience and resourcefulness.
Almost everyone who works in law enforcement sees bad things. Unfortunately, that is part of the job. But few confront evil as terrible as what you face every day. You stand up to predators who think nothing of destroying the souls of children just to make a buck or fulfill their own twisted fantasies.
You see wickedness that no one should ever have to see — and suffering and cruelty that few people can imagine.
Your work takes you to dark places — both virtual places and real ones — places that no one should ever have to visit.
You do the gut-wrenching work of collecting and reviewing the evidence of these crimes.
You interview victims, help them tell their stories as witnesses, and support them as they recover and build new lives.
It is tempting to become discouraged in the midst of all this. But you persevere, and for good reason. Few others can say that their work matters so much. You are rescuing and protecting innocent children, and bringing to justice truly evil people who commit horrific crimes.
For this, you have my admiration and my gratitude. You also have my commitment that as long as I am Attorney General, the Department of Justice will continue to strongly support your work.
Since I started this job almost four months ago, I have learned more about the great work being done today to combat child exploitation. Our Internet Crimes Against Children task force program is a prime example.
Since its beginning almost two decades ago, the ICAC program has grown into a network of 61 coordinated task forces. They represent more than 4,500 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies that combat computer-enabled child exploitation.
Task force investigations have led to the arrests of more than 73,000 people suspected of sexually exploiting children — including 8,800 just in the last year.
Task force personnel have also given more than 14,000 presentations on Internet safety over the last year, and supported almost 3,000 regional law enforcement trainings.
But even amid these heroic efforts, we also know the challenge we face today is greater than ever before.
I prosecuted a good number of child pornography cases when I was a United States Attorney three decades ago. But the landscape has changed profoundly since those days, as all of you know firsthand.
By all accounts, the scourge of child exploitation is getting worse.
We know that just here in the United States, many thousands of criminals are involved in this exploitation. Many millions of vile images and videos now circulate the globe, just a few clicks away for anyone who seeks them out.
Investigations and prosecutions of child exploitation are increasing, while the victims are getting even younger.
We also know that while the tech revolution has brought us many benefits, it has also made your work even more challenging.
It has given pedophiles new ways to find and exploit children. Because of technology, no place is safe for our kids — not even our homes or schools. Any child with access to a smartphone or tablet is vulnerable to predators.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of cheap cameras in phones and other devices has made it easier than ever for pedophiles to produce child pornography and share this filth with countless others.
Finally, we confront the so-called Darknet and other emerging technologies — including chat sites, social networking sites, and mobile applications on encrypted devices.
These tools help predators to target and groom our children for abuse, to find and encourage each other, and to evade law enforcement despite our best efforts.
That is why this training is so important. These depraved people are always looking for an edge, so they can continue to exploit kids and avoid justice. It’s crucial that we continue to adapt to their tactics; learn about the latest investigative technologies and techniques; and share ideas with each other. That’s what all of you will be doing this week.
It’s also crucial for us to build and strengthen partnerships. We know the child pornographers, sextortionists, and human traffickers work together and help each other. So we need a united front to stop them.
We saw the power of teamwork recently here in Georgia and in my home state of Alabama. Last November, the Alabama and Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children task forces coordinated an investigation called “Operation Southern Impact.”
It resulted in the arrest of 29 suspects from both states on charges of possession and distribution of child pornography, and the seizure of 731 digital devices as evidence. The investigation included more than 70 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
That is the kind of teamwork it takes to find these predators and bring them to justice.
The importance of teamwork also extends to the broader public. We need to help our fellow citizens know what to watch for, and encourage them to tell us when they see something troubling.
We saw the value of public involvement last month in Kansas. A man in Wichita was sentenced to over 16 years in federal prison for distributing child pornography.
This man came to the attention of investigators when they received four separate Cyber Tip-line Reports from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In this case, as in so many others, the vigilance of our fellow citizens made a real difference.
After my remarks, you will see a new Public Service Announcement produced by the A21 Campaign, an international anti-trafficking group. This short video reinforces to the public the importance of recognizing the signs of child sex-trafficking and reporting suspected crimes.
Nothing less than a united effort will be enough to keep our children from becoming victims of exploitation. It will take all of us — investigators, prosecutors, and victim support specialists; teachers, parents, and concerned citizens.
Standing together, we will send a message to the predators and pimps, the child abusers and the sextortionists and the traffickers: You will not harm our kids. And we will never rest until we find you and bring you to justice for your appalling acts.
Let me close by thanking all of you once again for choosing to do this difficult but noble work.
You see the darkest side of humanity almost every day — but that doesn’t stop you. Each of you is a bright light of hope and justice. Your light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.
Keep up the good work, have a productive week, and thanks for having me here today.