Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Matt for all that you do leading our Office of Justice Programs. It’s my privilege to welcome everyone to the Department of Justice.
Let me begin by also thanking Administrator Caren Harp and our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for organizing today’s ceremony, and for everything they do to keep America’s children safe.
I want to express my appreciation to John Clark and our friends at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) for their tireless commitment in advocating on behalf of the victims and families of missing and exploited kids. The Department of Justice and the National Center are long-time partners, a partnership forged in identifying, rescuing, recovering and seeking justice on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. While I wish this partnership was unnecessary, I am proud of the work we have done and the work we will continue to do on behalf of child victims.
I also want to thank Ms. Ambrose for being a part of our ceremony. Ms. Ambrose, my heart is broken by the loss you have suffered. I know that you miss Desiree terribly, and our prayers go out to you and your family. Please know that we are grateful for all that you have done and continue to do on behalf of exploited children -- raising awareness of the risks with parents and advocating for children and their families with lawmakers. We are honored to have you with us today.
Finally, let me congratulate the remarkable group of public servants we recognize today:
- A Broward County Sheriff’s detective whose diligent work resulted in jail sentences for three child pornographers;
- An outstanding team of federal, state, and local investigators that led a manhunt from Texas to Colorado to recover two abducted girls;
- Two firefighters who found a missing six-year-old boy in the mountains of Tennessee; and
- Another federal-state-local team whose excellent investigative work ended the serial exploitation perpetrated by an abuser masquerading as a foster parent.
These extraordinary men and women displayed ingenuity, commitment, and incredible resolve – the qualities we so often take for granted in our public safety officers but that are magnified in these exceptional individuals. They truly are the best of the best.
The Department of Justice is proud to stand with these heroes, and with the hundreds of thousands of hard-working peace officers across the country. This Administration has given its unqualified support to those who protect our children and our communities, because we understand what’s at stake. These brave men and women are our first line of defense against violent criminals, and they are often our last hope when children go missing and are put in harm’s way.
It is because of this work, that we support the network of 61 Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces across the country. As you heard from Caren, those teams of federal, state, and local agents investigate tens of thousands of cases a year, and they take thousands of abusers and exploiters off the streets. In each of the last two years, we’ve made available approximately $30 million dollars to support ICAC investigations, operations, equipment and software purchases, and training and technical assistance. The President’s budget request for the next fiscal year proposes adding $5 million dollars to that investment so the ICACs can continue doing their important work. We’re also working closely with NCMEC to improve the way its indispensable CyberTipline contributes to the work of these task forces. NCMEC is working to make investigators’ work easier by increasing the number of CyberTipline analysts working with the ICAC program and by facilitating the exchange of CyberTip information to make investigators’ work easier.
Our Project Safe Childhood program is another long-standing asset in our fight to protect children, and it remains as robust as ever. All our U.S. Attorneys’ offices, in coordination with the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and federal and local law enforcement agencies, are working under the umbrella of Project Safe Childhood to bring perpetrators of child exploitation to justice. Almost every day, we announce a new arrest or conviction. Just a week-and-a-half ago, a judge ordered a 35-year prison sentence against a Nebraska man who pled guilty to sex crimes involving a 13-year-old child who was unable to speak. During the course of the investigation, officers found the man to be in possession of hundreds of pornographic images of young children. Project Safe Childhood regularly brings people like this to justice. The Department of Justice is committed to protecting all children and we will continue to vigorously pursue justice on behalf of these young victims.
Our efforts to combat child exploitation are under continuous refinement and we’re working diligently to update the Department’s National Strategy on Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. Stacie Harris, who’s with us today, is my office’s designated point person, and she has been conferring regularly with law enforcement officials and child advocates to make sure our approach to this issue is informed by the best thinking and most innovative ideas.
These are just a few of the actions the Department of Justice has taken in the fight to recover missing and exploited children. It is a hard fight against some of the most devious and dangerous criminals, perpetrators bent on using our youngest citizens for their own depraved purposes. But make no mistake, they will not succeed. They will not succeed because of professionals like the men and women we honor today, whose fierce commitment to decency and justice will allow us to prevail over the darkest instincts of the worst in our society.
To our award recipients, we are grateful for your service, we stand in awe of your accomplishments, and we are proud to recognize you for all that you have done – and continue to do – to protect America’s children. On behalf of the Attorney General, and all of us at the Department of Justice, thank you, and congratulations.