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MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen gave welcome remarks this morning at the Project Safe Childhood Conference in the Wisconsin Dells: "Protecting Children From Online Predators."
"Project Safe Childhood is one important component of a multi-jurisdictional, comprehensive approach to attacking the problem of online sex predators," Van Hollen said in a prepared statement. "Conferences like this are an opportunity for federal, state, and local prosecutors and law enforcement to exchange information about this growing threat and to build partnerships with non law-enforcement and non-governmental organizations. Online sex predators monitor the Internet, seeking out Wisconsin's youth for victimization and trading graphic child pornography. But law enforcement monitors the Internet, too, and I am committed to working with federal and local law enforcement partners and stepping up Wisconsin's efforts to combat online sex predators."
Erik Peterson, U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin said, "As technology improves and the Internet becomes more vast and accessible, the number of computer-facilitated sexual crimes against children continues to grow. According to one recent study, one in seven children (ages 10 to 17) who are regular Internet users are sexually solicited online. That translates to millions of kids, and it suggests that there are thousands of offenders whom we have not yet identified and brought to justice. Our conference this week is attended by over 400 dedicated individuals - law enforcement officers, victim advocates, probation and correction officers, attorneys, and educators. In an effort to better protect our children, we are addressing the serious problem of online predators with a team approach that involves not just law enforcement officers, but other professions as well."
The conference, a two day event, is being attended by law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service providers, and education professionals. The conference's sponsors include the U.S. Attorneys' Offices for the Eastern and Western District of Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Victim Crime as well as the Wisconsin Department of Justice and other state and federal agencies.
In February 2006, United States Attorney General Gonzales announced the creation of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), an initiative designed to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation through the Internet. Project Safe Childhood's goal is to facilitate a coordinated partnership among the public and private entities involved in Internet safety and the prevention of child exploitation.
The Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, administered by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, was established in 1998 as part of a national network of state and local law enforcement cyber units to investigate child sexual exploitation. The Wisconsin ICAC Task Force receives federal grant funding through the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program.
In 2006, the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force's efforts led to the arrest of 110 online sex predators, 55 of which came through cutting edge investigations of child pornography being shared through peer-to-peer networks. In 2005, the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force led the nation in Internet Crimes Against Children arrests.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has identified stepping up efforts against online child sex offenders as a key priority of his administration. Testifying last month before the State Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance, Van Hollen said that investigators have identified 15,445 unique IP addresses resolving back to Wisconsin that offer to share files known to contain child pornography. The Wisconsin ICAC Task Force has been successful at identifying online sex predators as well as possessors and distributors of child pornography. While noting the alarming number of Wisconsinites offering to share images of child sexual abuse, Van Hollen challenged the Legislature and the Governor to "make an equally significant commitment to get known child sex predators off the streets and away from Wisconsin's children" as they have addressing convicted sex offenders.
Further information about the Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force can be found here.
Additional information about Project Safe Childhood can be found at http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov.