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Project Safe Childhood

Project Safe Childhood is a unified and comprehensive strategy to combat child exploitation. Initiated in May 2006, Project Safe Childhood combines law enforcement efforts, community action, and public awareness. The goal of Project Safe Childhood is to reduce the incidence of sexual exploitation of children. There are five essential components to Project Safe Childhood: (1) building partnerships; (2) coordinating law enforcement; (3) training PSC partners; (4) public awareness; and (5) accountability.

The Department of Justice is committed to the safety and well-being of our children and has placed a high priority on protecting and combating sexual exploitation of minors. Since the launch of Project Safe Childhood in 2006, the number of cases and defendants prosecuted by United States Attorney’s Offices has increased by 40%, with 2315 indictments against 2427 defendants filed in Fiscal Year 2009. PSC prosecutions by United States Attorneys’ Offices have increased each year since the launch of the initiative.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan is committed to keeping children safe and prosecuting child predators. The Office prosecutes those who create, download, share, possess, and view child pornography and those who seek to exploit children sexually by chatting online or arranging to meet children for sexual encounters.   More information about how to keep children safe online and how to report crimes against children is provided below.

Protecting Children from Online Predators:

Children of every age, family background, disposition, economic status, and sex are targeted by adults who prey on children.  But of the one in seven youth who receive sexual solicitations online, approximately 70% are girls.  Parents should monitor children’s and teenager’s online activity closely. 

Predators meet children on social media, chat rooms, and internet-based video games, among other places.  All of these activities present opportunities for predators to gain children’s and teenager’s trust and entice them to engage in sexual conduct.  Predators sometimes use a false identity, posing as other children or using a fake name to develop a friendship with a child.  The predator may even establish social media accounts under that false identity to provide an additional sense of legitimacy to that identity. In some cases – often referred to as “sextortion” – the predator will use deceit to convince a victim to send compromising images or text, which the predator then threatens to share with the victim’s family and friends if the victim does not provide further sexual images or money.            

Protecting Children from Sex Trafficking:

Families, teachers, hotel workers, convenience store employees, and students are in the best position to identify potential child sex trafficking activity.  While children of every type of background can be lured into prostitution, some warning signs of child sex trafficking include:

  • lack of organized afterschool and summer activities and supervision;
  • running away (not necessarily overnight);
  • recent friendship/attention between a teenager and an older adult who may drive the teen places or provide a place to stay overnight;
  • tension and fighting at home;
  • new clothing, nails, and hair styles generally outside the financial reach of a teen;
  • new cell phone not purchased by parent/guardian;
  • checking in at a hotel with no luggage or sneaking into a hotel through a side door;
  • drug/alcohol dependency; and
  • low self-esteem.

Report suspected sex trafficking immediately.

How to Report Child Exploitation:

If you suspect illegal activity involving child exploitation, contact law enforcement immediately.  If a child is in imminent danger, call 911.  Other resources for reporting these crimes include:

  • West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force (WEBCHEX) at 616-456-5489;
  • Homeland Security Investigations, Grand Rapids, at 616-235-3936 (x. 2215);
  • 1-800-THE-LOST® (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

More information on reporting various types of crimes involving children can be found here.

Updated October 11, 2023