Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Karol [Mason], for that very kind introduction – and for your exceptional commitment, unwavering passion and steadfast devotion to the well-being of America’s children. I also want to thank Bob [Listenbee] not only for his role in organizing this important event, but also for his dedicated leadership at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention or OJJDP. And I want to express my deep gratitude to Carlina White, whose activism and advocacy is born of her own personal experience as a survivor of abduction; Patty Wetterling, chair of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who has made this vital cause her life’s work; and William Campbell, judicial officer for the U.S. Postal Service. Thank you for joining us here today.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you in this Great Hall. The work that you do – here in Washington and around the nation – is inextricably linked with some of the most fundamental values of our country: collaboration in the face of complex challenges; innovation in the service of our most pressing needs; and an unbreakable commitment to the most vulnerable among us. Whether you were drawn here by a personal tragedy or summoned by an innate determination to do right by our young people, your efforts – each and every day – make our nation safer and our future more secure.
I want you to know that, for this Department of Justice – and for me personally – the protection of America’s children is a top priority. That commitment is clear through our partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which promotes a range of critically important programs and initiatives – from their work on autism safety and wandering prevention training for law enforcement, to their CyberTipline, which has assisted in the recovery of more than 205,000 missing children.
It’s also clear through the range of programs the department has launched and expanded over the years to respond to cases of missing children. We established the Federal Agency Task Force on Missing and Exploited Children, which works to improve collaboration among juvenile justice partners and promote the delivery of federal services. We funded the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program or ICAC – whose investigations led to more than 8,000 arrests and over 67,000 forensic examinations in 2014 alone. We have used the AMBER Alert system to return 767 abducted children to their homes and we continue to broaden the AMBER secondary distribution network. In fact, this past January, the Department of Justice announced a partnership with Facebook and Bing to expand the reach of the AMBER Alert early warning system so that Facebook AMBER alerts are now sent to users in designated search areas and Bing users can access alerts through the search engine’s online broadcast tools.
We’re also working to end the scourge of modern-day slavery by supporting an array of programs to reach the more than 100,000 children who are victimized by human trafficking every year. In January of last year, the White House released the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. The plan laid out concrete steps that can be applied by agencies across the federal government to ensure that the response to victims of human trafficking is more coordinated, more comprehensive and more effective than ever before.
Beyond these programs, we are working hard to reduce children’s exposure to violence. Under our Defending Childhood Initiative, led by OJJDP and the Office of Justice Programs, we’re supporting evidence-based interventions for children, expanding our base of knowledge and developing a wide-ranging strategy based on recommendations from a national task force on children exposed to violence. And we are extending that innovative work through the Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence in order to develop fresh, data-driven strategies to address problems like violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide in communities where they are alarmingly common.
These are vital, and in some cases, groundbreaking efforts, but I recognize that we have much more work to do – and that government cannot conquer these challenges alone. That’s why your efforts are so important and why your critical work must go on. I want to be clear: this Department of Justice will never pause; will never rest; and will never cease in our effort protect this country’s young people. We will do everything we can to find children who have gone missing, to reunite them with their loved ones and to stand beside them and their families as they do the hard work necessary to recover their lives and restore their futures. And we will continue to work with all of you – with longstanding partners and new friends – to expand and advance this work together.
I have no illusions that this work will be easy. But with the help of dedicated allies like all of you – here in Washington and across the country – I cannot help feeling confident about all that we will achieve together in the days ahead. I thank you once again for your dedication to this vision, your commitment to this cause and your steadfast devotion to the future of our nation.
And now, it is my honor to present one of the awards being conferred today.
The Attorney General’s Special Commendation recognizes the extraordinary efforts of an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, an ICAC affiliate agency, or an individual assigned to an ICAC task force or affiliate agency for making a significant investigative or program contribution to the ICAC task force program.
In 2014, Special Agent William Thompson of Homeland Security Investigations and a member of the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force led the investigation of a suspected sexual predator who reportedly used a social networking site to prey on children across southern California and 10 other states. Special Agent Thompson was assigned to investigate two National Center for Missing & Exploited Children CyberTipline reports in which a man, posing as a 16-year-old girl, coerced young boys to webcam sexually explicit images of themselves and send the images to him.
Special Agent Thompson’s investigation led to two Internet addresses belonging to a male third grade teacher in the Chula Vista, California, Elementary School system. A search of the suspect’s home turned up thousands of videos and images of child pornography on a home computer. Following media coverage of the arrest, two victims came forward and stated that the suspect had molested them. One of the victims told police that the suspect had begun molesting him when he was 8 and continued until he was 14. Suspecting there were other victims, Special Agent Thompson spent several months reviewing case evidence, video and photographic evidence, networking site records and Internet addresses to identify additional victims. Due to his efforts, Special Agent Thompson identified 28 victims in 10 states who the suspect is alleged to have manipulated into forwarding sexually explicit images of themselves. Special Agent Thompson spent countless hours interviewing victims and witnesses and meticulously documenting their testimonies. The suspect is currently being held in the San Diego Central Jail and is charged with 43 counts of lewd acts with children and one count of possession of child pornography.
For his extraordinary efforts and outstanding work, Special Agent Thompson has received the Attorney General’s Special Commendation. Congratulations, and please join us on stage.
Congratulations again, Special Agent Thompson and congratulations to all of the outstanding award recipients here today. I want to thank you all, once more, for your hard work, for your passion and for your unwavering commitment to this noble cause. I urge you to keep up the great work.