Jus­tice pro­vides $5 mil­lion in funds to pur­sue on­line child preda­tors

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

The Jus­tice De­part­ment on May 7 gave $5 mil­lion in new funds to Project Safe Child­hood, a two-yearold law-en­force­ment ini­tia­tive that tar­gets child preda­tors who use the In­ter­net and other tech­nol­ogy to sex­u­ally ex­ploit chil­dren.

The money will fund 43 new as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney po­si­tions na­tion­wide to pros­e­cute sus­pected of­fend­ers, said Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Filip, who made the an­nounce­ment dur­ing vis­its to the U.S. at­tor­neys’ of­fices in Char­lotte, N.C., and Lex­ing­ton, Ky.

“Ex­plicit images of chil­dren on the In­ter­net are not only in­creas­ing in num­ber, they are be­com­ing more depraved. To be clear: We’re not talk­ing about in­no­cent fam­ily snapshots, we’re talk­ing about the most hor­rific crimes imag­in­able, like videos de­pict­ing the graphic sex­ual as­sault of chil­dren, and even in­fants, traded around the world like base­ball cards,” Mr. Filip said.

“Th­ese are tough cases. They take an emo­tional toll on in­ves­ti­ga­tors and ju­rors. But we know we can­not stop, be­cause how­ever dif­fi­cult th­ese cases are for peo­ple in law en­force­ment, it is noth­ing com­pared to the suf­fer­ing of child vic­tims and their fam­i­lies,” he said.

Mr. Filip said the Jus­tice De­part­ment set out to mar­shal the ef­forts of fed­eral, state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, as well as non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, “for the sake of th­ese chil­dren” and has been en­cour­aged by the suc­cess of the pro­gram na­tion­wide.

In fis­cal 2007, in­dict­ments were sought against 2,218 de­fen­dants, a 27.8 per­cent in­crease over fis­cal 2006. Prose­cu­tions in 332 child-ex­ploita­tion cases also re­sulted in the for­fei­ture of more than $5.2 mil­lion in as­sets — a 492.7 per­cent in­crease over fis­cal 2006.

“As long as there are preda­tors out there act­ing on their per­verse fan­tasies, cre­at­ing and trad­ing in th­ese videos and pho­tos, we will not re­lent,” Mr. Filip said. “Th­ese cases will con­tinue to be a pri­or­ity for the De­part­ment of Jus­tice — we want th­ese peo­ple to know that we are go­ing af­ter them and that they will pay a high price for their crimes.”

The Char­lotte and Lex­ing­ton of­fices each re­ceived one of the newly cre­ated po­si­tions, which were awarded on a com­pet­i­tive ba­sis among the many dis­tricts with demon­strated records of suc­cess­fully pros­e­cut­ing sex­ual crimes against chil­dren. No dis­trict was awarded more than one new po­si­tion.

Project Safe Child­hood is a Jus­tice De­part­ment pro­gram that be­gan in Fe­bru­ary 2006 as a na­tion­wide ini­tia­tive de­signed to pro­tect chil­dren from on­line ex­ploita­tion and abuse. Led by the U.S. at­tor­neys’ of­fices, the pro­gram pulls to­gether fed­eral, state and lo­cal re­sources to bet­ter lo­cate, ap­pre­hend and pros­e­cute those who ex­ploit chil­dren via the In­ter­net, and iden­tify and res­cue vic­tims.

When the Jus­tice De­part­ment put the pro­gram into mo­tion, de­part­ment of­fi­cials said it would en­hance the na­tional re­sponse to a “grow­ing threat” to Amer­ica’s chil­dren, and would al­low fed­eral prose­cu­tors na­tion­wide to part­ner with a na­tional net­work of re­gional task forces to tar­get on­line preda­tors.

The of­fi­cials noted that at any given time, 50,000 preda­tors are on the In­ter­net “prowl­ing” for chil­dren, de­scrib­ing their be­hav­ior as “ag­gres­sive and graphic.” They said it was “not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say we are in the midst of an epi­demic of sex­ual abuse and ex­ploita­tion of our chil­dren.”

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