Home News Stories 2006 December How We Target Child Predators
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How We Target Child Predators

Protecting Our Future
One Child at a Time


Director Mueller addresses law enforcement officials at the Project Safe Childhood conference Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Director Mueller addresses law enforcement officials at the Project Safe Childhood conference Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Talk about prevention: we’ve helped take more than 6,000 child predators off the streets in the last 10 years. That’s a lot of horrific future crimes—and untold misery—that never happened to kids and their families.

But when it comes to the Internet—with computing power growing and technology costs falling by the minute—what’s past is truly prologue.

Every day, more and more children are going online and finding new things to do. They’re posting pictures and personal details about themselves to meet new friends…competing with like-minded gamers (usually complete strangers) around the world…even setting up web cams—all the while often unknowingly putting themselves at risk, oblivious to the dark side of the web, to the predators who lurk in the shadows.

On Tuesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller talked about the increasingly insidious dangers at the Project Safe Childhood conference in Washington, D.C., which brought together prosecutors, forensic examiners, police officers, and FBI agents who work these cases.

“With heightened scrutiny in the United States, child pornographers are going further underground, using file-sharing networks and encrypted websites. They are concealing their financial mechanisms through a maze of online payment services, using stolen credit cards. They are traveling to foreign countries to exploit minors. They are victimizing more children, in more ways, at younger and younger ages. …These are not mere pictures or posed shots, but live acts of molestation,” he said.

Think, for example, about how much more you can get for your money today when it comes to computer storage. Now think about a child pornographer, caught not so long ago in Chicago, using a custom-built computer with five hard drives and several external drives housing more than a terabyte of data—as the Director pointed out, “the equivalent of more than one million paperback books.” Scary.

All this is why the FBI has more resources devoted to stopping child predators than ever before. And why we’ve got more initiatives with more partners around the world dedicated to the same mission. The Director ticked off the most important of them:

  • Our Innocent Images National Initiative, which pairs up 240 FBI agents with hundreds of law enforcement partners nationwide in undercover operations where we pose as children or collectors to lure predators into the open;
  • A related venture, the Innocent Images International Task Force, which brings together our partners worldwide at a single site to share information on the growing cases with global angles;
  • Our Regional Computer Forensics Labs and Computer Analysis Response Teams, experts in finding and preserving digital evidence;
  • Our Endangered Child Alert Program, which “uses national and international media exposure to identify unknown predators and victims” and has already led to the arrest of eight wanted subjects.

What can you do?

First, get educated. Our agents are often out talking about these issues—with the media, with teens, with parents, with whoever will listen. Contact our field offices for details. You can also tap into resources like I-Safe, a non-profit foundation dedicated to web safety.

Second, join us in spreading the message. Talk to your kids. To your fellow parents. To your friends and neighbors. You, too, can be a voice for prevention.

Finally, to learn more about the FBI’s work, our recent cases, and the hurdles we face, please read the Director’s speech in its entirety.