- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday put into motion a nationwide program to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.

Mr. Gonzales said Project Safe Childhood (PSC) will enhance the national response to a “growing threat” to America’s youths, and will allow U.S. attorneys nationwide to partner with a national network of 46 regional task forces to target online predators.

The attorney general said that at any given time, 50,000 predators are on the Internet “prowling” for children.

“Just this morning, I visited the FBI’s Innocent Images Unit in Maryland, where I observed some of the aggressive behavior and graphic language used by these online pedophiles as they solicit our children,” he said when announcing PSC.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of an epidemic of sexual abuse and exploitation of our children.”

Funded by the department’s Office of Justice Programs, the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces have been protecting America’s children since 1998, and this year, the department awarded more than $14 million to the PSC program.

Mr. Gonzales said that in addition to the task forces, U.S. attorneys will partner with their federal investigative counterparts, other state and local law enforcement and community officials in their districts.

In developing partnerships and fashioning strategic plans with their partners, he said the U.S. attorneys will address five core elements of the PSC initiative: Greater integration of law-enforcement efforts; local execution of leads from national operations; increased federal involvement in child pornography and enticement cases; training of federal, state and local law enforcement; and community awareness and educational programs.

Mr. Gonzales said as the Internet becomes more accessible, the number of computer-facilitated sexual-exploitation crimes committed against children — including child-pornography offenses and enticement crimes — is expected to continue to grow.

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