Keeping Our Children Safe, Protecting
the ‘Most Vulnerable Among Us’

FBI Photo
(FBI) The exploitation of children has unfortunately become a “growth industry,” according to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III, but the Bureau is “working every day to find and stop those who prey on our children.”

Speaking recently at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center Crimes Against Children Conference, Mueller noted how pervasive these crimes have become. “In just the past decade, we have moved from lone predators with limited reach to global communities of pedophiles on the Internet,” he said. “We have moved from back-alley bookstores to criminal enterprises that treat children as merely another commodity for sale in the global marketplace. We have moved from videos in plain brown packages to encrypted websites, flash drives, and cell phones capable of storing thousands of images.”

How big is the problem? A recent five-day sweep of 16 cities conducted through our Innocence Lost program, which identifies and disrupts child prostitution rings, resulted in the arrests of 389 people and the recovery of 21 children.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California capped an eight-month, first-of-its-kind investigation by the Bureau and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by charging 52 defendants with possession of child pornography. The defendants were allegedly using peer-to-peer Internet networks to exchange graphic images and videos.

And these are just two examples—there are many more. But while the scope of the problem is vast, Mueller said, “we are using new tools, new technology, and new partnerships” to help put a stop to crimes against children.

The Bureau battles crimes against children on several fronts, with partnerships that range from local police departments to private Internet service providers to global law enforcement organizations. For instance:

Innocence Lost program features 24 task forces and working groups around the country involving federal, state, and local law enforcement and U.S. Atttorney’s Offices. Our Innocence Lost Child Prostitution Database puts more than 17,000 records of children and predators at the fingertips of investigators. According to Mueller, since the program began in 2003, we have—together with our partners—recovered 433 children, convicted 308 criminals, and dismantled 32 criminal organizations.

Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Teams move quickly in critical cases when a child is missing. “In the past two years,” Mueller said, “these teams have been deployed 33 times to assist state and local law enforcement, with 15 children safely recovered.”

Innocent Images National Initiative targets predators who use the Internet to exploit children. Investigators may pose as children or collectors to lure predators into the open. Or coordinate with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to identify children and adults featured in child pornography. Or train police officers to investigate cases in their own jurisdictions.

In the end, though, the battle against those who prey on children is often a frustrating one. Said Mueller, “There are days…when it seems there are more predators than police officers, prosecutors, and child advocates combined. But these predators cannot match our dedication.”

He added, “We reaffirm our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable among us. We reaffirm our commitment to sweeping sexual predators off the street, off the Internet, and out of our children’s lives.”