Cybele K. Daley, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Conference Entitled, “Triad, Working Together and Celebrating Fifteen Great Years”
May 1, 2007
Thank you, District Attorney Scheibel. It’s a pleasure to be here.
I want to thank District Attorney Scheibel, Sheriff Garvey, and Sheriff Macdonald for hosting this event and for their commitment to TRIAD in their communities. My thanks, too, to the Franklin and Hampshire County TRIAD Steering Committees for their work in organizing today’s program and for all they do on behalf of the area’s seniors.
I’m so pleased that you are making child predators and cyber safety a focus of today’s conference. I believe that the responsibility for protecting our children falls on all of us – parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, and neighbors. Every citizen has a role to play in keeping our young people safe, and I applaud you for taking on this important issue.
Protecting children from online predators is one of the top priorities of Attorney General Gonzales and the Department of Justice. And if you look at the statistics, you’ll see why.
A report from our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and our partners at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tells us that one child in every seven receives a sexual solicitation or approach online.
Five years ago, that ratio was one in five. So statistically we have made progress. Unfortunately, though, the study found that significantly more young Internet users are exposed to unwanted sexual material.
Also, aggressive solicitations have not declined. That means that a child gets a call, mail, money, or gifts from a pedophile, or is somehow asked to meet the solicitor. About 1 in 33 children are contacted this way.
And a separate study of child pornographers shows that most pornographers have images of prepubescent children and of graphic depictions of sexual activity. Most disturbing of all, one in five has images of sexual violence to children.
These aren’t just tasteless photos. These are portraits of shocking crimes against the youngest members of our society.
Last year, Attorney General Gonzales announced a Justice Department initiative called Project Safe Childhood. As you may know, Project Safe Childhood is aimed at preventing online child exploitation and arresting its perpetrators.
It has two basic components: First, it is designed to help families take precautions against online predators. It includes a program to raise awareness of the threat of cyber-enticement, and provides tools and information to parents and kids to help them report possible violations.
Its second component centers on investigation and enforcement. Our Internet Crimes Against Children, or ICAC, Task Force Program is the heart of this effort.
ICAC task forces are teams of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials and prosecutors working together to investigate online child exploitation. Right now, we support 46 ICAC task forces throughout the country. The task forces have played a critical role in stopping Internet criminal activity targeting children. Since the inception of the program nine years ago, ICAC task forces have made thousands of arrests.
Here in Massachusetts, the ICAC task force is managed by the state police. Investigators are assigned to each of the state’s 12 district attorneys’ offices, and they not only investigate ICAC-related offenses, but also provide support and assistance to the task force’s
60 affiliated law enforcement agencies. In addition, the Massachusetts’ Attorney General has dedicated an Assistant Attorney General to coordinate training and technical assistance for prosecutors and to help prosecute cases in state court.
Since 2001, the Massachusetts ICAC task force has reviewed some 2,300 complaints of technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation, and it has helped to arrest and prosecute 184 defendants. Another telling statistic is
that, in the last 15 months, 30 of those arrests have resulted in plea agreements. . . a pretty clear indication of the high quality of the investigations.
The Massachusetts task force arrested or charged 18 people as part of an investigation called Operation Trenchcoat. It was also involved in the largest Yahoo referral case. In that case, the suspect had uploaded tens of thousands of images and videos to Yahoo servers. When he was interviewed by investigators, he admitted to raping a child in New York.
This case, and many others like it, confirm our darkest suspicions about cyber criminals. So often, the incident or image that prompts an investigation is only the tip of the iceberg. A case of a few pornographic pictures downloaded by a single individual can turn into thousands of images traded across the country. And very often, child pornographers turn out to be vicious sexual
predators. The illicit commerce of pornographers can be just the first step in an accelerated march toward sexual violence.
As part of the Administration’s effort to address this problem, President Bush recently appointed Laura Rogers the first head of the new Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking Office. The acronym is a little easier: The SMART Office. The purpose of the SMART Office will be to administer the provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which President Bush signed into law last July.
The Adam Walsh Act gives statutory authority to Project Safe Childhood and enhances our ability to monitor sex offenders. Among its many responsibilities, the SMART Office will administer new standards for sex offender registration and notification. It also will administer any grant programs relating to sex offender registration and notification. And it will provide technical assistance to states and local communities on sex offender registration and on efforts to protect citizens from sexual abuse and exploitation.
Through the SMART Office, through the ICAC task forces, and through Project Safe Childhood, we are working hard to make the Internet safe for our children and to bring those who exploit and abuse our children to justice.
We believe there is a role for you to play as well. As community leaders, we encourage you to spread the news about the importance of computer safety. Through programs like Netsmartz and Web Wise Kids, we offer training resources that you can take advantage of. Also, you should call the CyberTipline to report illicit online activity targeting children. More information on these and other resources is available on the Web at projectsafechildhood.gov.
We at OJP believe that, in order to adequately protect our children, we need the support and involvement of groups like TRIAD. Through your good work in protecting seniors, you have made yourselves indispensable to the safety of your communities. Now we need your help to guard our young people from sexual predators and others who would harm them. Just as you have helped to ensure that the streets of your neighborhoods are safe, we count on you to help protect the avenues of cyberspace.
Congratulations on 15 great years of service. On behalf of all of OJP, thank you for the good work that you have done in pursuit of safety and justice. I look forward to strengthening our partnership on behalf of our nation’s children.