HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Project Safe Childhood has been around for almost 20 years, but its mission hasn’t changed. It exists to protect children and combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. The threats to children have changed and grown since the program began in 2006, and Project Safe Childhood has adapted to address new threats as they emerge.
Some of the threats facing children today include, child pornography, online enticement of children for sexual purposes, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and child sex tourism. Under Project Safe Childhood, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service providers, and others work together to protect children from predators both online and in real-life.
U.S. Attorney of the North Alabama District of the Department of Justice, Prim Escalona, knows that, “as technology changes, so do the tools that we have to combat child exploitation.”
Escalona is also a mother of four, who understands all too well the dangers of the internet and how complicated it can be to monitor your children online… all the time.
“I think it’s important that we look at this as collaboration. I have four children and so I understand the pressures that are on a parent to try to monitor every device. Children just today have so much access to devices, whether it’s at school or at home in their free time. So, while the parent certainly is a lot of times our first line of defense, they can’t be our only line of defense,” said Escalona.
This is exactly why Project Safe Childhood was created back in 2006.
Although parents should be monitoring what their children are doing online, online predators can fly under the radar, making it hard to know who to trust.
That’s exactly why the Department of Justice stepped in to make the consequences of preying on children, all that more serious.
“Children are so naturally trusting and innocent, that it is a reminder that a lot of what we see on the internet is not true. People may tell you that they’re a 14-year-old girl who lives down the street, and it’s actually a 35-year-old man who’s trying to prey on children. So, it’s just a reminder that we want children to remain children as long as possible and to be safe and also, to be able to be trusting,” said Escalona.
The U.S. Attorney has a message for the online predators out there, that under Project Safe Childhood, no predator is truly safe.
“What you think may be anonymous, is not anonymous and we will find individuals and we will when we do find those individuals who are harming children, we will prosecute you and it will be to the fullest extent of the law,” said Escalona.
Internet Safety Tips for Kids from Project Safe Childhood
- Do not post personal information online (name, age, birth date, address, telephone number, or school name). This information can be used by others to find out where you and your family live.
- Do not post your picture online – it can be copied or changed or used to find you.
- Do not post your plans and activities in a chat room or on your personal website.
- Do not communicate with someone who has made you uncomfortable or afraid. Tell your parents or a trusted adult if someone does.
- Do not meet with someone you met online without first telling your parents or guardian.
- Do not respond to hurtful or inappropriate messages.
- Do remember that people can lie online and say they are something they are not. Someone who says they are a 12-year-old girl could really be an older man looking to harm you.
- Do save messages that upset you and show them to your parents.
- Do share your password with your parents.
- Do visit www.netsmartz.org to learn more about Internet safety.
Background on Project Safe Childhood from the U.S. Department of Justice:
Project Safe Childhood is a unified and comprehensive strategy to combat child exploitation. Initiated in May, 2006, Project Safe Childhood combines law enforcement efforts, community action, and public awareness. The goal of Project Safe Childhood is to reduce the incidence of sexual exploitation of children. There are five essential components to Project Safe Childhood: (1) building partnerships; (2) coordinating law enforcement; (3) training PSC partners; (4) public awareness; and (5) accountability.
The Department of Justice is committed to the safety and well-being of our children and has placed a high priority on protecting and combating sexual exploitation of minors. Since the launch of Project Safe Childhood in 2006, the number of cases and defendants prosecuted by United States Attorney’s Offices has increased by 40%, with 2315 indictments against 2427 defendants filed in Fiscal Year 2009. PSC prosecutions by United States Attorneys’ Offices have increased each year since the launch of the initiative.
Congress passed the Providing Resources, Officers, and Technology to Eradicate Cyber Threats to Our Children Act of 2008 (the “PROTECT Our Children Act”). As mandated by the Act, in February 2010, the Department, working with the National Drug Intelligence Center, completed a year long and first of its kind threat assessment of the magnitude of child exploitation. The result of this assessment reports a disturbing trend showing increases, and in some instances significant increases, in all types of child sexual exploitation, including: (1) child pornography; (2) online enticement of children for sexual purposes; (3) commercial sexual exploitation of children; and (4) child sex tourism.
In April 2016 the Department submitted the second National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction to Congress, building on the work of the first strategy the Department issued. The National Strategy describes in detail the current efforts of the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners to find, prosecute, and punish those who prey on the nation’s children. It describes, as well, efforts by those agencies and others to engage in public outreach and awareness to prevent children from being victimized in the first place, whether through enticement of the unwary online or through their exploitation on the streets of the nation’s cities. It addresses the unique circumstances that lead to child exploitation in Indian County and the responses that are necessary to protect tribal victims. It further details the efforts by the Department and other agencies to provide services to children that account for the complex, intersecting, and long-lasting harms that exploitation causes. And it forecasts a future of greater technological and global threats. In order to face those threats, the National Strategy outlines a series of goals for law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service providers, among others, for protecting the nation’s children. Most importantly, the National Strategy reaffirms our unwavering commitment to ensuring that all children in America are able to reach their potential and are protected from violence and abuse.
These components include: the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorneys Offices, Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Office of International Affairs, Office of Justice Programs, and Office of Legal Policy. These components will coordinate and multiple their efforts with the numerous other local, state, tribal, federal, and non-governmental agencies and organizations. This includes the United States Postal Inspection Service, Department of Homeland Security through Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Secret Service, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, the 61 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, and numerous other local and state agencies and organizations. The non-governmental organizations that will work alongside our federal, tribal, state, and local partners include the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, Child Help, Darkness to Light, Girls Education and Mentoring Services, Inc., Enough is Enough, i-Safe, Kristi House, Inc., Nevada Child Seekers, Paul Lisa Program, Inc., Web Wise Kids, San Diego Police Foundation, Self Reliance Foundation, Washtenaw Area Council for Children, INOBTR, TechMission Youth Program, PROTECT, and many others.