Department of Justice Continues to Refine Strategies to Fight Child Exploitation
SIOUX CITY, IA - The United States Attorney’s Office and the Mercy Child Advocacy Center held a joint press conference today at Mercy Medical Center to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a Department of Justice nationwide initiative to combat child sexual exploitation. Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Duax and Child Advocacy Center Forensic Interviewer Sherrie Schweder, discussed national and local strategies designed to combat the sexual exploitation of children.
Although originally intended to combat technology-facilitated sexual exploitation of children, the success of the PSC over the past 10 years resulted in its expansion to encompass all federal child exploitation offenses. Just last year, 61 coordinated Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces nationwide, representing more than 3,500 federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement, conducted investigations leading to the arrest of more than 8,500 individuals. Those prosecutions not only rescued victims already being harmed, but also helped prevent other children from becoming victimized.
However, to continue their success, law enforcement agencies and prosecutorial agencies must respond to emerging technological advances, such as encryption technologies, and anonymization networks, which are used by online sex offenders to obscure their identities. These offenders have also increasingly migrated to organized group enterprises, where they can collaborate with other like-minded predators to perpetrate their offenses.
In addition to investigating child exploitation offenses, the United States Attorney’s Office and its partners are also committed to providing community-based outreach efforts. These outreach efforts include internet safety presentations at local schools, and for community groups.
United States Attorney Kevin Techau stated, “Public awareness and education about the current and future threats to children in our district are fundamental to any successful strategy to combat child exploitation. Although the identification of those threats and the investigation and prosecution of offenders are essential, our greatest achievement would be to prevent those crimes from happening in the first place. Consequently, we intend to take measures to positively impact the awareness, understanding, and responses of parents, educators, community members, and children of potential dangers.”
A particular area of emphasis will be placed on combatting the ever-increasing incidence of sextortion offenses. Sextortion is a form of exploitation where an offender obtains information or an image from a child and then uses the compromising information or image to extort the child to create sexually explicit images. Sextortion offenders typically threaten minors ages 10-17, the typical age range for juvenile Internet users, but increasingly, investigations have revealed that offenders manipulate the victim to abuse younger siblings or friends, thereby extending the threat to even younger and more vulnerable victims.
Going forward, the United States Attorney’s Office and its partners in the fight against child exploitation will continue to utilize a victim-centered approach in pursuing justice. Investigative and prosecution agencies, educational institutions, mental health professionals, victim advocates, medical experts, child service agencies, juvenile justice systems, non-profits, and others who are engaged in responding to sexually exploited children and youth will prioritize the provision of timely, victim centered, individualized, trauma informed, culturally competent, and comprehensive services to these victims.
To learn more about Project Safe Childhood, visit: https://www.justice.gov/psc.
Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.