Loretta E Lynch, the Attorney General in Washington, DC, declared in a press release on April 19, 2016, that the 2016 National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction report has been issued. The strategy comprises of the core issues linked with the horrors these children have had to face which include child sex trafficking, child pornography, live streaming of child sexual abuse, child sex tourism and violation of sex offense registries.
The strategy involves assessment of efforts which have already been taken, the potential new threats that could arise and the necessary steps which are required to deal with the issue. Lynch assures the public by saying, “The strategy reaffirms our unwavering commitment to ensure that every child in America is able to reach his or her potential, free of violence and abuse.”
The US Department of Justice has filed 20,260 cases of Project Safe Childhood (PSC) since 2011 against 19,111 defendants. These cases were mainly involved with issues such as sexual abuse of a minor or ward, child pornography offenses, visual obscenities circling around the sexual abuse of children and selling or buying of children. Though work has been going on the issue, the department recognizes the need for continued struggles against the crimes.
The National Strategy Working Group plans to divide their goals and objectives into four key areas for increased success. These four areas include: investigations and prosecutions, outreach and awareness, victim services and policy, and legislative initiatives.
Through investigations and prosecutions, they intend to target emerging technologies, offender organizations and high value individual offenders. They also plan to enhance international collaboration and identify victims.
By implementing outreach and awareness activities, their main objective is to expand and update community based internet safety outreach efforts, develop nationwide messages to prevent and deter offenses against children, enhance awareness and educational activities that help fight the sexual exploitation of children being done on a commercial scale and to carry out law enforcement and prosecutor training. Victim services would take care of providing homes for victimized children who don’t have anywhere to go to or those who are unable to further live in their required living space. It would also include publishing a summary of findings and guidance to the field, and to collaboratively work with service providers, and survivors to provide long term services to the victims of child sexual exploitation.
And lastly, the policy and legislative initiatives are scheduled to work on developing a model state law for individuals who have been arrested for prostitution as minors, as well as pursuing a new legislation. They also plan to develop a system which would investigate and track the technological impact of our ability to identify offenders. Through collaboration with Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online/We PROTECT initiative, the department plans to enhance global coordination.
Other programs such as Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program have provided training for 500,000 law enforcement professionals since its birth. They have managed to represent 3,500 federal, state and local law agencies, solely in the year 2015 and are doing everything they can to bring about a change.
In order to protect tribal victims, the department plans to implement long term solutions to the Indian country. They are keen to recognize how family pressures in such tribes leads victims to not disclosing the abuse they faced, thus adequate training is provided for federal, state, local and tribal criminal justice, and social service professionals who are working with tribal victims.
Loretta Flynch certifies this by saying: “This is a time of great change in law enforcement, of technological advances that are moving forward.” She further goes on to say that “technology makes our jobs easier — we can track not just felons but our own performance. The date we generate lets us deploy resources swiftly and with pinpoint focus”.
Project Safe Childhood (PSC) was launched in May 2006 and has recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary. It is headed by the US Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and their primary objective is to fight against the rapid growth of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes being committed against children, mainly people who exploit children through the use of internet.
Numerous other agencies and organizations have collaborated together to combat child exploitation. The Department of Education (ED) also contributes in this struggle by raising awareness about domestic human trafficking and exploitation amongst young individuals through educational measures. It is affiliated with other agencies such as state and federal agencies, and public sector stakeholders.
To make matters easier, CyberTipLine has been created to report cases of child sexual exploitation. The venture has proven to be extremely successful with over 8.4 million cases reported between just 1998 and April 2015. It has been created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) which is a private nonprofit organization aimed at locating missing children and combating child exploitation. Together they aim to reduce child sexual exploitation through online measures.
The ripple effects of the strategy being put into place have already started to take control as Jeffrey Owen Tucker from San Antonio has been sentenced to federal prison for 210 months on charges of child pornography earlier on Tuesday. He confessed that he had downloaded images and videos containing child pornography content from the internet from January 2015 till September 2015. The investigation has been carried out by Attorney Tracy Thompson on behalf of the government. In another instance, Jesus Coca from Maryland has admitted to producing child pornography with his wife on Monday. On the same day, a former teacher at St Elizabeth High School in the Western District of Missouri had pleaded guilty in the federal court for distributing child pornography as well.
Lynch concludes the press release by saying, “I have no illusions that our task will be easy – but I also have no doubt that, together, we can help realize our nation’s most sacred obligation: providing security and opportunity for our children and ensuring justice for all.”