Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Stacie, for that kind introduction, and thank you for all the critically important work you do on behalf of the Department of Justice as the National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction and as an Associate Deputy Attorney General.
I would also like to thank Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matt Dummermuth of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). Without the necessary leadership, grants, and technical assistance provided by OJP, training events like this one would not be possible.
Thank you also to Director Vic Reynolds and all the men and women of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Attorney General Barr, Deputy Attorney General Rosen and I know that you are on the front lines when it comes to protecting vulnerable children from exploitation, and the Department commends your continued efforts and dedication.
Finally, I also want to thank all the law enforcement investigators, prosecutors, digital forensic examiners, and community outreach personnel who are with us here in Atlanta.
The Department of Justice is honored to once again host the National Law Enforcement Training on Child Exploitation. This training is the premier law enforcement training event on this issue in the United States. The next few days are solely focused on protecting our nation’s children from the depraved individuals who would seek to abuse them.
Child exploitation takes many forms—from forced labor to sexual abuse. But regardless of the method, all of these crimes are abhorrent and have no place in a civilized society. Nevertheless, these vile acts persist; and as society becomes more advanced, so do the predators. No longer do they merely lurk around the playground or the school yard. Instead, these deviants use advanced technologies to facilitate their crimes, targeting children in online chat rooms and videogame lobbies. In fact, just last month a California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for sexually exploiting a minor he met while playing “Clash of Clans,” an online video game that any child can easily access through a mobile device or tablet. Law enforcement is also seeing these perpetrators using encrypted applications to hide their communications from law enforcement scrutiny.
Cases like these serve as sober reminders that in order to protect our children, we too must adapt.
One of those critical adaptations was the Department of Justice’s creation of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, and their effective deployment in various frameworks over the last two decades.
The ICAC Task Force Program was launched in 1998 to help federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative responses to offenders who use the internet, online communication systems, or computer technology to exploit children.
To date, ICAC task forces have reviewed more than 922,000 complaints of child exploitation, which have resulted in the arrest of more than 95,500 individuals. In addition, since the ICAC program's inception, more than 708,500 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other professionals have been trained on techniques to investigate and prosecute ICAC-related cases.
As I mentioned last month, during our National Missing Children’s Day Ceremony, in each of the last two years, the Department of Justice has 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 ICAC task forces can continue doing their important work. Attorney General Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosen are committed to maintaining the Department’s robust support for these programs.
And today, I am proud to announce the results of ICAC’s most recent efforts, Operation Broken Heart.
Broken Heart was a nationwide operation conducted by 61 ICAC task forces located in all 50 states, comprising more than 4,500 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies during the months of April and May 2019.
As a result of the two month operation, nearly 1,700 suspected online child sex offenders were arrested. The task forces also identified over 300 offenders who either produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse, and more than 350 children who suffered from sexual abuse or were exploited in the production of child pornography.
In addition to making arrests, ICAC task forces investigated more than 18,500 complaints of technology-facilitated crimes targeting children and delivered over 2,100 presentations on internet safety to over 200,000 youth and adults.
The results of Operation Broken Heart demonstrate what is possible when law enforcement agencies at every level come together to solve complex cases and bring criminals to justice.
However, despite the tremendous efforts of the ICAC task forces, there is still much work to be done, which is why this week’s training is so critically important to our collective law enforcement efforts.
This week’s training will help ensure that you have the skills you need to make that happen, whether you are a law enforcement investigator, digital evidence examiner, prosecutor, victim advocate, or community outreach specialist.
Additionally, this training serves as a vehicle to expose federal, state, local and tribal participants to administration priorities, Department of Justice leadership and components, philosophy, and best practices. It also serves to build capacity across the country by providing you all with the information and tools you need to effectively combat child exploitation – all while learning side-by-side with your peers.
For example, in a workshop presented by the FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Team and the Behavioral Analysis Unit, participants will learn about critical initial actions for law enforcement professionals to take when responding to missing children and child abductions. While in CyberTips 101, trainees will achieve an in-depth understanding of how CyberTipline reports are submitted, analyzed and subsequently made available to law enforcement.
Those programs represent just a few of the more than one hundred unique lectures, workshops, and case studies available to you all during this training. Each program is specifically designed to make us all better stewards of justice and more vigilant protectors of our nation’s children.
Even as we recognize the importance of this training and the work that we must continue to do to keep our children safe, it is appropriate to also recognize the important work the Department has already done to protect exploited children, beyond the work of the aforementioned ICAC task forces.
In particular, the Department is dedicated to criminal enforcement actions related to its Project Safe Childhood (PSC) initiative, which is a nationwide effort to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), and the FBI, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
In Fiscal Year 2018, PSC federal prosecutors filed over 2500 child exploitation cases. Between 2008 and 2018 the number of production of child pornography indictments increased over 160%. While this is a very troubling statistic, I am proud of the work you are doing to identify, arrest and prosecute the most dangerous child predators amongst us. It is for this reason, that Department of Justice guidance under Attorney General Barr, has directed our prosecutors to seek the maximum sentence that the law will allow when bringing these predators to justice. For example, last month a Nebraska man (Steven Carlson, 38 years old) was sentenced to 35 years in prison, followed by a lifetime term of supervised release for filming himself engaged in forcible, sexual acts with a non-communicative minor. He represents just one of the many vile criminals that the Department will work hard to remove from society for as long as legally possible.
That said, some of the most important work carried out by the Department, through enhanced law enforcement coordination, and additional contributions by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children whose CEO, John Clark, is with us today, involves rescuing and removing children from abusive environments and making sure they receive the critical help they need following their unspeakably traumatic experiences. In particular, and to that end, the Department’s Office of Victims of Crime provides substantial support for comprehensive victim services, including housing, mental health counseling and civil legal services.
Regardless of the federal, state, local, tribal or non-government office or agency carrying out this critical mission, the goal remains the same: protecting our children, and holding offenders accountable. Attorney General Barr, Deputy Attorney General Rosen and I are all confident that every single person in this room is committed to doing just that.
I’d like to close by again expressing my sincere gratitude to you all for being here to attend this year’s training. The work you all do is absolutely essential and it is the hope of the Department that this week’s training will provide you with the necessary tools to carry out our mission to protect our nation’s youth.