Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at National Law Enforcement Conference on Child Exploitation
Atlanta, GA United States ~ Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Thank you, U.S. Attorney [John] Horn for that kind introduction – and for your vital partnership in the Northern District of Georgia as we seek to protect the American people and safeguard the rights of all our citizens. Thanks also to Karol [Mason] for leading this event and to the Office of Justice Program’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for their work in organizing this conference. I’d also like to recognize our federal partners and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations for their support of this training. I’m pleased and encouraged that so many law enforcement professionals – more than 1,400 of you in total, from every level of government – are gathered in Atlanta today to forge and to fortify crucial relationships; to exchange information and share best practices; and to recommit yourselves to the spirit of collaboration that is necessary to achieve our common goals.
As Attorney General, one of my most urgent priorities is to protect our nation’s children from exploitation and abuse and the Department of Justice is engaged in that effort through a wide range of initiatives – from programs designed to reach the thousands of children who are victims of human trafficking, to our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, which has facilitated the training of more than 500,000 law enforcement professionals since its inception, providing valuable techniques related to investigating, prosecuting and preventing technology-enabled crimes against children. In 2015 alone, 61 coordinated ICAC task forces representing more than 3,500 federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies conducted more than 54,000 investigations that resulted in the arrest of more than 8,500 individuals. We did what we do best – combined our skills, our resources and our commitment to truly make a difference. I know that all of those task forces are represented here today and I thank you once again for your achievements.
The department’s efforts in this area – and in particular the work of the ICAC Task Force Program – have long recognized that collaboration with other federal agencies, as well as state, county, local, tribal and non-governmental partners, is essential to our success. I want to take a moment to acknowledge John Clark, the CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC, which is a hugely important organization with the sole purpose of locating missing children and combating child exploitation. Put simply, NCMEC saves lives and restores futures. The Department of Justice recently joined with NCMEC to produce a new public service announcement on an emerging threat to our nation’s children that we would like to share with you now.
The scenario depicted in this PSA is the crime of sextortion – an offense involving sexual coercion and often blackmail that has proliferated particularly in the past few years. This crime relies on new technology but really is as old as the hills. Defendants place unsuspecting children in a vulnerable position, exploit them and threaten them to ensure they don’t cry out for help. Just two years ago, a Justice Department investigation found that a Texas high school teacher named Gregory Bogomol had posed as a teenage girl on social media to persuade at least 20 teenage boys to send him compromising pictures of themselves. After they sent the initial pictures, Bogomol would blackmail them for more explicit images and videos, threatening to send the images he had already received to their friends and sports coaches. Thanks to the commitment and cooperation of federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors, Bogomol pleaded guilty to two counts of production of child pornography and received a sentence of 60 years imprisonment. We hope that this PSA – which will be available on both DOJ’s and NCMEC’s websites for anyone to use – will help you raise awareness among parents, teachers and students themselves about the danger of sextortion.
Crimes like this one serve as a reminder of the importance of the work that we all do every day to keep children safe and to prosecute child predators – and the importance of cooperation in the service of that goal. No matter what form child exploitation takes – from the kind of sextortion we’ve described to the trafficking of children for sex – and no matter how technologically advanced it is – whether it’s hidden on anonymous networks, in the cloud, or behind a wall of encryption – it demands the full attention of law enforcement, policymakers, community leaders and service providers alike.
We have all witnessed the results of that spirit of collaboration. This spring, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Project Safe Childhood, which brings together federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement in a comprehensive and unified response to the abuse and exploitation of minors. In just the first three years of this program, our prosecutors increased the number of cases filed and defendants indicted by 40 percent, filing over 2,300 cases in FY 2009. And we’ve seen even more extraordinary results since then – in FY 2015, our prosecutors brought over 4,200 child exploitation cases against over 4,400 defendants.
We intend to expand on these achievements. Today, I am proud to announce the publication of our National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction – a nationwide blueprint that was formulated over the course of a year by an interagency working group harnessing the expertise of law enforcement at all levels, as well as the experience and knowledge of non-governmental stakeholders. This strategy examines existing efforts, assesses new threats and plots a course for the future. It identifies innovative ways in which the federal government and its partners can address child exploitation. And it reaffirms our unwavering commitment to ensuring that every child in America is able to reach his or her potential, free of violence and abuse. I am excited about where this roadmap for progress will lead us and I look forward to all that we will do together to achieve our shared goals.
As you take part in this week’s training, I urge you to use this opportunity to learn from one another; to seek out new ideas and fresh perspectives; and to strengthen the bonds that join us in this mission. I am confident that the work you do will enhance our ability to protect vulnerable children, to support juvenile victims and to shield our young people from online threats, sexual violence, exploitation and abuse. This is a time of great change in law enforcement, of technological advances that are moving our profession forward. Technology makes our jobs easier – we can track not just felons but our own performance. The data we generate lets us deploy resources swiftly and with pinpoint focus. But all our technology and data has sadly not changed the darkness of the human heart that seeks to harm our children and stamp out innocence. But what else has not and will never change is law enforcement’s commitment to fighting that darkness and rescuing every child who has fallen in and bringing them back to the light. I want you to know that, as you move ahead, you not only have the thanks of a grateful Attorney General – you also have my full and unwavering support.
I have no illusions that our task will be easy – but I also have no doubt that, together, we can help to realize our nation’s most sacred obligation: providing security and opportunity for our children and ensuring justice for all. Thank you all, once again, for your dedication to our young people, your commitment to our cause and your devotion to the future of our country. I wish you all a most productive session.