THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
FIFTH ANNUAL VIOLENT CRIMES CONFERENCE
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2004
Thank you, and good morning. I'm pleased to be with you on this final day of your conference.
I'm grateful for this opportunity to talk to you, if only because it gives me a chance to tell you how much the entire Department of Justice appreciates the work that you do. The crime rate is down to its lowest level in 30 years, but crime is now aided and abetted by sophisticated tools that both heighten the menace and conceal the methods. Never before has the public faced greater threats to its safety, and never before has law enforcement faced such tremendous challenges. You have proven time and time again that you are up to those challenges, and I want to thank you for always rising to the occasion.
While you've been here improving your skills to fight violent crime of all kinds, I've been just across town at the Second AMBER Alert National Conference discussing efforts aimed specifically at responding to child abduction. As you know, President Bush has made the protection of children one of his highest criminal justice priorities. So, in October 2002, he directed Attorney General Ashcroft to appoint an AMBER Alert National Coordinator.
Since being named that coordinator, I have worked with state and local law enforcement, broadcasters and others to develop a national strategy for recovering abducted children and to help states, regions, and localities strengthen their own plans. Over the last two years, we have seen a mere handful of jurisdictions with AMBER Alert plans grow into a total of 99 plans, including statewide plans in the 48 contiguous states and Alaska.
We also have seen the number of recoveries of abducted children increase dramatically. Before we began to coordinate our efforts nationally, AMBER was responsible for 34 recoveries in the span of six years. In the two years since, we've brought home 121 children-four-fifths of our successes in one-fourth of the time. I consider that a powerful testament to the value of working together.
Even more powerful are the stories we hear, including one of the more recent successes right here in Columbus, in which a convicted sex offender kidnapped his four step-grandchildren. Paul Burkey, an ex-Marine, spotted the AMBER Alert on a road sign and realized the car was immediately in front of him. He called 911, and trailed the abductor until the police arrived.
Mr. Burkey and another Ohio citizen, Dan Ellis, were honored on Wednesday by Governor Taft for having called in alerts promptly, helping to save the lives of children right here in Ohio.
AMBER Alert is making a difference, not only in Ohio, but also throughout the country. It's making a difference because children whose safety was once seriously threatened are alive and safe at home with their families today. It's making a difference because children are being taken out of harm's way and parents are being spared their worst nightmare.
It also is working as a deterrent. Many of the success stories involve perpetrators who leave behind an abducted child and flee or give up altogether after hearing an alert. Not terribly surprising, I suppose. It must be rather daunting to know that citizens throughout an entire city, state, or even multiple states, are on the lookout for you.
In the meantime, we continue to broaden our base to ensure the most rapid and efficient response to child abductions. In particular, we have begun to enlist the aid of the private sector.
Since July, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has entered into agreements with NEXTEL, AOL, and ADVO, under which the companies agree to send out AMBER Alerts to thousands of people who use their services, giving us a direct line to the community residents who are our best allies in recovering abducted children.
This secondary dissemination will complement the efforts of law enforcement personnel, broadcasters, and transportation officials, who have formed the primary, and critical, AMBER partnership. With communications firms as part of our alliance, we have an even greater chance of recovering abducted children quickly and safely.
And we are shoring up our response system to guarantee that AMBER Alerts are given the urgent attention they need. Here, the FBI has been a major player.
Just last week, the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) created a flag to be added to the National Crime Information Center Missing Person File when an AMBER Alert is issued. When the flag is added, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will be notified immediately and automatically. We are working with the state AMBER coordinators to make sure they know how to enter data into the NCIC system accurately and completely, so that the system can work at maximum efficiency.
But the bottom line is that every state, every community, and every individual law enforcement agency needs to have a clear plan in place, outlining exactly what steps will be taken, and by whom, the moment a missing child is deemed to be in danger of harm at the hands of an abductor.
It is absolutely critical that any officer to whom an abduction is reported be prepared to act quickly. Of the children who are murdered by their abductor, 74% are killed within the first three hours following the abduction; and 99% are killed within 24 hours. So there is no time to waste-law enforcement must act quickly, decisively, and in close coordination with your partners at the state, in the media, and the like, or a child may be killed.
We've generated tremendous momentum over the last two years, and we continue to build on it. More jurisdictions are developing AMBER Alert plans. More agencies and organizations are lending their resources. More people know about our efforts. And more children are being recovered. AMBER is working, and it's working because our partners in law enforcement, broadcasting, transportation, and private enterprise are committed to making it work.
But as you well know, protecting children involves much more than taking them out of the hands of abductors. Sadly, many of the most sinister crimes are perpetrated while children are ostensibly safe inside their own homes.
The Internet and computers have come to play an expanding role in sex crimes committed against children and youth. According to the Youth Internet Safety Survey, one child in five receives unwanted sexual solicitations online. And 25 percent of young Internet users are exposed to sexual material that they neither seek nor expect.
Shielding children from abuse and exploitation today means more than keeping them in the home. It means maintaining a constant vigil, monitoring every activity. And this as parents are juggling more responsibilities than ever before.
Fortunately, we in the criminal justice field and our partners in the private and non-profit sectors are working to help parents meet this additional responsibility. We're providing more information on Internet safety to children and parents. We're creating filters and other controls that prevent criminal access to children. And we're giving children places to turn for help when they are accosted.
We in OJP are also supporting your efforts in law enforcement to crack down on Internet crimes. Through the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, administered by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, we're helping federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies develop effective responses to cybercrime.
To date, the program has supported 39 task forces across the country, providing resources to aid in prevention, investigation, forensic examinations, and training for law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Task force operations have led to well more than 1,000 arrests nationwide and forensic exams of more than 5,000 computers. In addition, more than 40,000 law enforcement officers and prosecutors have received training and almost 100,000 children, parents, educators, and others have been reached through presentations, publications, and public outreach.
Recently, this collaboration was integral to the success of a national effort involving the FBI to combat child pornography trafficked through peer-to-peer computer networks. As some of you may know, peer-to-peer software provides direct links between users, allowing them to avoid the firewalls installed on regular Internet servers. As you can imagine, it enables a great deal of illegal activity.
Attorney General Ashcroft reported in May that since the operation was launched in the fall of 2003, authorities had executed more than 350 search warrants, identified more than 3,300 suspect computers, and arrested and charged more than 65 individuals.
The Internet Crimes Against Children task forces also have helped to improve our understanding of the dynamics of Internet crime, a crime-fighting tool in itself. For example, almost all task force investigations have required substantial communication and coordination among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. This collaboration is essential to your success in these investigations, and we have published program standards to facilitate interagency referrals of child pornography and cyber-enticement cases.
We have learned that most investigations are initiated in response to citizen complaints rather than undercover operations in which officers pose as minors in a chatroom. To that end, our partners at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children operate the CyberTipline, a one-stop reporting point for citizens with information about suspicious Internet activity.
Specially trained analysts review and verify all information that comes in through the CyberTipline and then forward those leads to appropriate law enforcement agencies. The CyberTipline has received tens of thousands of reports regarding the sexual exploitation of children since it began operation more than six years ago.
We have also learned that, although awareness of the dangers of cybercrime appears to be growing, many parents still are not sufficiently informed about what to do in the event of a cyber-encounter, or how easily their children may be lured by an on-line predator. In one instance, it took just 45 minutes for a task force officer, posing as a teenager, to arrange a meeting with a 13-year old girl.
Even parents who are on guard against predators don't always know what to do when they come across suspicious activity. ICAC task forces have investigated several cases in which vigilant parents warded off perpetrators but did not call the CyberTipline. Although their own children were spared harm, the perpetrators went on to victimize other children.
We are working diligently to remedy this insidious threat to public safety. President Bush himself elevated his attack on cybercrime, indeed on crimes against children in general, when he signed the PROTECT Act.
In addition to providing support for AMBER Alert, the PROTECT Act gives law enforcement expanded authority to address the full range of serious sexual crimes against children. For example, under prior law, wiretaps were authorized for a number of crimes, but not for many of the crimes in which the Internet is used to lure children for purposes of sexual abuse. The PROTECT Act changes that. It also eliminates statutes of limitations for crimes involving the abduction or physical or sexual abuse of a child.
The PROTECT Act also applies appropriately severe penalties for those who commit crimes against children. Now, a first-time offender who uses a child to produce pornography faces 15 to 30 years.
The legislation's provisions deliver on the President's promise to perpetrators that, quote, "If you prey on our children, there will be serious, severe consequences."
The Internet is a basic fact of life for today's children. It gives them ready access to tools of intellectual enrichment. Its value far outweighs its flaws. But those flaws offer a dangerous opening to enterprising criminals.
We are working together to close those openings. As Attorney General Ashcroft has said, "The Department of Justice is acting to ensure that cyberspace is not a free-trafficking zone for purveyors of child pornography and predators of children."
Your agenda at this conference has also dealt with serial killers. Let me spend a moment talking about an initiative that may do more to help law enforcement solve violent crimes early, and spare other potential victims the pain of being seriously injured or killed, than any other development in the last century.
I'm talking about the promise of DNA evidence to assist you in solving crimes. For the last two years, my agency, the Office of Justice Programs, has taken the lead in developing the details of a Presidential initiative to move the entire country to a new and higher level in our ability to use DNA to solve crimes, to bring swift justice to the guilty, and to protect the innocent.
I would share with you the case of Kellie Greene, a young woman I have had the privilege of getting to know over the past two years. In the mid-1990s, Kellie was raped in her Florida residence by an intruder who, after the rape, threatened to kill her, saying, "Remember, I know where you live." She lived in fear for the next several years, wondering if he would come back.
Then, a match was made-to a man who, by now, had been imprisoned for yet another rape, committed after Kellie's. As it turned out, this man had raped yet a third woman, about six weeks before he raped Kellie. If we as a nation had been as advanced as we can and should be with regard to DNA, both Kellie, and the woman raped after Kellie, might have been spared the pain and anguish of victimization altogether.
I just heard on the news here in Columbus two days ago about the 4-year-old unsolved homicide in Licking County, in which an 86-year-old woman had been brutally murdered in her apartment. There were no leads on the killer, but DNA from the crime scene was entered into the national DNA database, maintained by the FBI. Just recently, a sample taken from a man arrested in Florida earlier this year was submitted to the DNA database, and a hit was made on the evidence from the Licking County case. The man was arrested on Wednesday of this week, while driving in Newark, and charged with the elderly woman's murder.
Success stories like this are becoming more and more prevalent. As we increase our use of DNA, we improve the ability of law enforcement throughout the country to solve crimes quickly, and without wasting significant law enforcement time chasing down false leads.
So, in March of 2003, President Bush announced a 5-year, $1 billion initiative to do just that. With our first year of funding under this initiative, which the Congress made available in our 2004 appropriation, we will address the significant backlog of DNA samples in police departments and crime labs all over the country, with funding to help you reduce those backlogs quickly. We will provide money to state and local crime labs to increase their capacity to handle this evidence more quickly and efficiently, through robotics and Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS).
We will conduct research to make the testing process faster and less expensive, so your labs can conduct more tests for less money and keep up with the demand.
We are dedicating some funds specifically to identification of the unidentified dead. And we are expanding CODIS, the combined DNA database at the FBI, to handle as many as 50 million DNA samples.
This $1 billion initiative, I would suggest to you, will constitute the most significant advance for law enforcement and crime solving in the last 100 years. I strongly encourage you to look into and take advantage of these new resources.
If determination and vigor were the defining characteristics of the successful crime-fighter in an earlier day, then adaptability, the use of modern technology, and increased vigilance are the traits required of you in today's world. By attending training conferences like this one, you demonstrate that you possess those new traits. I commend you for your professionalism, for your tireless efforts, for your dedication to justice, and for everything you do, every day, to keep the rest of us safe.