Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Gary G. Grindler Headshot

Protecting Our Children from Crimes Online

Posted: Updated:

Crimes against children are particularly vile. The threat to our children is real and with the advent and increasing sophistication of the Internet, the threat is evolving as much as it is expanding. Assessing the threat posed by child exploitation is difficult. But in order to address the situation, we must try to better understand the dangers.

Research indicates that there has been a significant increase in the proliferation of child pornography, driven in large part by an enormous financial incentive for peddlers of these abhorrent images. It is estimated that more than 200 new images are circulated daily and the profit derived from these criminal acts could be as high as $20 billion annually.

Like child pornography, the enticement of our children over the Internet is a serious threat. Offenders are using networks of like-minded deviants to share strategies, lurk in chat rooms, social networking or gaming sites where children commonly gather. Ensuring our children are aware of this hidden danger and know how to keep themselves safe is as crucial to our fight as is strong law enforcement efforts.

Some children also face the threat of being victimized by commercial sexual exploitation. Runaways, throwaways, sexual assault victims, and neglected children can be recruited into a violent life of forced prostitution. The numbers are staggering. Between 2004 through 2008, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces saw a 914 percent increase in the number of child victims of prostitution complaints processed by their members.

We know that some criminals have turned away from illicit activities such as drug dealing and robbery toward child sex trafficking because it's more profitable -- these traffickers can make up to several thousand dollars a day as a single child can generate as much as $1,000 on a weekend night.

Understanding all of these dangers, we must also keep in mind that it is not just our own children who are at risk. The child sex tourism industry continues to thrive. Child sex tourists prey on the most vulnerable children in the most impoverished areas of the world.

Through leadership and coordination with our international allies, federal, state, local, and tribal partners, NGOs, child advocacy centers, victim service providers, educators, and industry we will leave the criminals no place to hide. Through coordination we can devise strategies to combat this war and rescue these victims.

The Department of Justice is committed to continuing to fight against the sexual exploitation of children on all fronts, including: prevention, deterrence, and interdiction. While law enforcement remains a very important strategy, we also recognize that we can not simply prosecute our way out of this problem. On the law enforcement side, we must ensure that we have expertly trained investigators and prosecutors.

The solution to child exploitation must also include prevention through public awareness and education campaigns. It must also include deterrence using tools like sex offender monitoring. And, law enforcement must have the technological tools you need to investigate these crimes. The Department is taking a number of steps to help on each of these fronts.

A National Database: The Department is working closely with the ICACs and others to design and build an Internet Crimes Against Children Data System that will support our efforts and result in a smarter more effective response. This system will provide meaningful deconfliction among federal, state, local, tribal, and even some international partners who investigate child exploitation.

The Expansion of the Innocence Lost Initiative: The Department is also exploring the expansion of the Innocence Lost Initiative. This program targets child prostitution and has shown remarkable success.

National Sex Offender Registry: One of the Department's short-term goals is to have the U.S. Marshals Service stand up a fully operational National Sex Offender Tracking Center to better track and apprehend fugitive sex offenders. The Center is already online and the Marshals are working to fully staff the Center with analysts and other professionals in the near future.

A National Coordinator: To help bring all of the pieces together and to further the coordination efforts, the Department has appointed Francey Hakes as the National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. She is an experienced federal prosecutor who previously worked closely with the ICAC in her home state of Georgia, has personally prosecuted numerous cases of child pornography and exploitation, and she is eager to work with our other partners to increase overall coordination of our efforts.

Ultimately, whatever form of child exploitation we discuss, whether it is child pornography, the enticement of children by online predators, or the trafficking of children for sex trafficking - a central theme seems to emerge - child exploitation is a global problem that spans borders and requires a global response. Coordination and marshaling all of our collective efforts will be necessary to attack these criminals and stop the devastation that they will otherwise wreak.

We must act together as a nation to protect our children, and children worldwide, and the ICAC program does just that by bringing thousands of federal, state, and local investigators and prosecutors together to share information, investigate cases, conduct training, and develop law enforcement technologies and techniques to interdict child exploitation. By increasing our cooperation and coordination we will increase our ability to rescue victimized children, arrest those who abuse them, and, hopefully, prevent other children from ever facing the threat of sexual exploitation.

Register To Vote