Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
33rd National Conference on Juvenile Justice
March 27, 2006
Thank you, Bob [J. Robert Flores, Director of OJP's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention].
I'm happy to be here today. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about issues that are both personally and professionally important to me.
As the head of an agency whose mission is to help ensure public safety, I consider the welfare of our young people one of my key responsibilities. I believe that our ability to help protect children is the true test of our effectiveness. But I bring an added perspective. As the mother of two young children, I hold nothing more dear than the health and the safety of my children. There's nothing I wouldn't do to protect them.
I'm fortunate that my personal and professional responsibilities are in such close agreement. It sure makes it easy to come to work every day.
I'm also fortunate to work for a couple of highly placed people who view our job of child protection not only in professional, but in very personal terms.
Attorney General Gonzales is the father of three sons, and every decision he makes is informed by his devotion to his children. As he has said, "There is no greater measure of our nation's compassion or our humanity as a people than how we protect, raise, and care for our children."
And then there's President Bush, who is the father of two grown daughters. He understands that the future of our country belongs to our children, and he believes that we have no greater responsibility than to protect them.
The safety and welfare of children is a concern for everyone in this Administration, and we are all mindful of the many challenges you face as you work to prevent harm to children and to help those who have suffered.
We're working with you to meet those challenges, and we're doing so in many ways.
We have some exciting news. Our 2006 national report about juvenile offenders and victims is being released at this meeting. Since 1995, the reports that comprise the Juvenile Offenders and Victims report series have been among the most referenced documents in the juvenile justice field. There are several reasons for this success.
First, the reports pull together the field's most requested and needed empirical information. Much of this information comes from published sources, often outside the access of the media, the general public, and most juvenile justice professionals.
Second, the reports present this empirical information in a style that enables non-technical audiences to understand its meaning and significance. Presentations are relatively short, the writing is clear, and the information is presented in a way that is easily understood.
Over the years the juvenile justice field, the media, and the general public have come to trust and turn to the Juvenile Offenders and Victims series when they need information on juvenile crime, victimization and the juvenile justice system. This is the third comprehensive report in the series — with the prior one being published in 1999.
Old friends of the series will find updates of previous information as well as many new and updated empirical findings that they can use in their work.
There will be a more in-depth discussion of the report tomorrow during a breakout session at 10:45 a.m. and I encourage you to attend this session! Bob Flores and the authors of the report will discuss their work in more detail. The report is quite comprehensive and I've been told that some universities use the report as a textbook!
Now, I'd like to take a few minutes to go over some of the highlights of this report.
The first report issued in 1995 included the original analyses that showed that violent crime by juveniles peaked in the hours right after school. Today that is knowledge that everyone takes for granted, and the 2006 report updates this information and shows us that:
- The violent crime peak in the after-school hours on school days is seen in the crimes committed by both male and female, and both white and black youth;
- Violent crimes committed with firearms peak between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. for both juvenile and adult offenders;
- Unlike violent crimes, the time of shoplifting by juveniles is similar on both school days and non-school days; however, the peak times are still between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and
- Juvenile arrests for drug law violations and for weapons law violations peaked during school hours on school days and in the late evening hours on non-school days.
But what do we do with this information? One of the things we can do is become involved in the Helping America's Youth initiative. This effort led by First Lady Laura Bush recognizes that it takes all of us, families, schools, communities and other concerned adults, to help America's young people grow up to be healthy and successful.
On the Helping America's Youth website – www.helpingamericasyouth.gov – is the Community Guide, which helps communities assess their unique local needs and find programs and resources to meet them.
The Guide is easy to use. With the community inventory feature, community members can answer questions about their town and receive feedback about where problem areas exist. Then the Guide will direct communities to more information about programs and resources that are designed to address the challenges they face.
For example, you can put a map of your community on the assessment guide. Your law enforcement can lay out crime statistics on this map. You can plug in your Boys' and Girls' Clubs, your public libraries, all of the things that offer children help. And then you can see which parts of your communities have the highest crime statistics, need the most law enforcement, and need other programs to help children in those communities.
In addition to the Helping America's Youth initiative, the President is expanding the Project Safe Neighborhoods program and dedicating $165 million to support new and expanded anti-gang prevention and enforcement efforts.
Project Sentry is the element of Project Safe Neighborhoods that focuses on reducing juvenile gun violence. Under this program, we've awarded $20 million to 37 sites. That money has been channeled through district attorneys' offices to hire local prosecutors and fund programs to reduce juvenile gun crime.
We've seen some very successful Project Sentry programs. For example, Project Ceasefire in Kansas City, Missouri links prosecutors, law enforcement officers, the clergy, school personnel, and outreach workers to provide job training, academic tutoring, and other services to youth. More than 75 percent of participants in that program have stayed crime-free.
And there's the youth mentoring and leadership development program in Griffith and Highland, Indiana. That project is a two-week educational program developed in conjunction with our Gang Resistance Education and Training, or GREAT, program. Its focus is to steer kids away, not only from guns, but from gangs and drugs as well.
Another effort that is important on the local level is the AMBER Alert program. In addition to serving as the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, I'm the National AMBER Alert Coordinator. Many of you are intimately involved in your local or state AMBER program, and you understand what an important tool it has become in enhancing child safety. Thanks to AMBER Alert, 249 abducted children have been found and safely recovered since the program was created 10 years ago.
Even during a time of growing partnerships, AMBER is unique. There's no other way to describe a union of law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation departments, and the public.
A few years ago, that would have seemed a strange sort of marriage. But even stranger is the fact that it works! And not only does it work, but it's become a force in the prevention of crimes against children.
AMBER is so impressive not only because it's helped to save so many children but because it has given would-be abductors fewer and fewer opportunities for committing crimes.
And what's even more remarkable is that its full potential is not yet realized. We're still bringing in partners from the public as well as the private sector.
One of the exciting developments in the last year has been in the area of secondary distribution. "Secondary distribution" is the term we apply to mechanisms for issuing AMBER Alerts beyond the front-line response of law enforcement officials, broadcasters, and transportation agencies.
The AMBER Wireless Initiative is one of those methods. Under the wireless initiative, cell phone users with text messaging capability can register to have AMBER Alerts sent to them directly. So, if you're not listening to the radio or sitting in front of a T.V., which is where AMBER Alerts are broadcast, you can still get an alert.
The potential of this program is enormous. Some 190 million cell phone subscribers are eligible to enroll, which means that countless eyes can be enlisted in the search for abducted children.
We're working to strengthen AMBER in other ways. One of our goals for the coming year is to involve Canadian and Mexican authorities in our efforts.
Just as abductors don't heed state boundaries when they flee with children, they also don't respect international borders. We've included the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Mexican state police in our new AMBER working group. We'll work actively with them to make them part of our network.
And we're beginning to work with tribal officials to eliminate the jurisdictional obstacles that can arise if an abductor crosses into or out of tribal lands.
We're also exploring ways to improve our response to missing and abducted children who don't fall within the purview of AMBER.
In January, we held the first training program to establish Child Abduction Response Teams, or CARTs. CARTs provide a way for responding to cases involving all missing and abducted children, many of whom do not meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert.
CARTs are groups of trained experts who can help law enforcement agencies respond to cases of missing and abducted children. They were first implemented in Florida in response to the Carlie Brucia case. Florida 's efforts are a model for other states. We're now working to implement a program that will provide a national framework that states can use in coordinating their responses to missing children cases.
OJP's CART program will conduct training sessions in 10 regions over the next year. The goal is to have those trainings lead to the establishment of CARTs in each of those regions.
Shielding children from harm and exploitation today involves more than keeping them out of physical proximity to criminals. It also involves monitoring what goes on in the home, specifically with computers and the Internet.
Today's technology can help busy parents, but it also can become one more source of concern if parents aren't aware of how criminals use computers to prey on the unsuspecting, particularly children.
We are working to help parents meet this additional responsibility. We're providing more information on Internet safety to children and parents. We are creating filters and other controls that prevent criminal access to children. And we're giving children places to turn for help when they are approached by criminals in cyberspace.
Last month, Judge Gonzales announced the creation of Project Safe Childhood. The goal of Project Safe Childhood is to improve the nation's response to exploitation that is facilitated by computers. The cornerstone of that effort is our Internet Crimes Against Children, or ICAC, Task Force Program.
ICAC provides resources to aid in the prevention and investigation of cybercrime and to support forensic examinations and law enforcement training. The program now supports the efforts of 45 task forces across the country.
ICAC task forces have played a key role in recent cases. For example, I'm sure you've heard about the indictments that the Attorney General announced in Chicago on March 15. The ICAC task forces played a key role in this case involving 27 individuals in the United States , Canada , Australia , and England who were charged in trading child pornography in a chat room called "Kiddypics and Kiddyvids."
As you well know, child maltreatment and exploitation take many terrible forms. One of the most tragic is human trafficking.
Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked against their will across international borders. Of those, about 15,000 victims are trafficked into the United States. Victims are forced into prostitution, or to work in sweatshops or in other forms of involuntary servitude.
Half of all trafficking victims are children under the age of 18. These young victims often become the pawns of the sex tourism industry. As President Bush has said, they "see little of life before they see the very worst of life."
The Bush Administration has taken a broad approach to try to end human trafficking. In January, the President signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This new law will enable us to continue to investigate and prosecute traffickers by providing new grants to state and local law enforcement. In addition, the bill will help us provide important new services to victims, including appointing guardians for young victims. Furthermore, the President has requested $20 million for next year to help state and local law enforcement agencies fight trafficking.
Internationally, the United States has contributed more than $295 million since 2001 to support anti-trafficking programs in more than 120 countries. We will continue our efforts to combat this insidious crime.
These are some but by no means all the efforts we've undertaken to protect children. We're doing a great deal, but protecting children will require our continued vigilance and hard work.
We will continue to look to each of you for guidance as we shape new initiatives. And we hope you will turn to us for information and help as you seek to meet the threats that criminals pose to children. Only by working together will we achieve success.