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Maryland U.S. Attorney presents awards to HSI agents for service and commitment to the protection of children

Maryland's Project Safe Childhood Program and Human Trafficking Task Force aim to deter pedophiles and save children from abuse

BALTIMORE — Federal and state law enforcement officers including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, prosecutors and victim advocates were recognized March 30 by the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office for their service and commitment to the protection of children through Maryland's Project Safe Childhood (PSC) and Human Trafficking Task Force. In addition, one minor victim was recognized for courage and fortitude in the pursuit of justice.

HSI Special Agents Christine Carlson and Joseph Mizell of HSI Baltimore received awards for their work with PSC.

HSI Baltimore Special Agent Adrian Sanders and HSI Victim Advocate Susan Ritter received awards for their work with the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force.

In addition to the awards, in an effort to enhance cooperation among agencies and awareness of the prevalence of child sexual abuse, training for law enforcement and prosecutors on the latest developments in child exploitation offenses was also conducted. Experts from the Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, among others, presented information on the latest developments in investigative techniques, prosecution requirements and protecting victims.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, "Investigations and prosecutions of criminals who sexually exploit children continue to increase in Maryland thanks to the coordinated efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement authorities. Unfortunately, recent cases demonstrate that we still need to warn parents about the extraordinary risks that pedophiles pose to children, both on and off the Internet. Children are most vulnerable to victimization by people they know and trust, not by strangers. We must enhance our efforts to deter pedophiles and save children from abuse."

PSC is a unified and comprehensive strategy to combat online child exploitation and abuse that combines law enforcement efforts, community action and public awareness. There are five essential components to PSC in Maryland: building partnerships, law enforcement coordination, training, public awareness and accountability. Additional information is available on the internet at: www.justice.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.

The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders. Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members. For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit: www.justice.gov/usao/md/Human-Trafficking/index.html.

Since October 2006, when Maryland's PSC program started, the U.S. Attorney's Office has prosecuted cases involving the online enticement of children to engage in sexual activity, interstate transportation of children to engage in sexual activity, production, distribution and possession of child pornography, and other offenses. Maryland's PSC task force also holds regular meetings and training sessions, including at least two events each year in which all members participate.

One of the most important roles of PSC is education. Law enforcement officers from the PSC task force have spoken at area schools on how to protect children from solicitation over the internet. The task force has developed a model awareness and education program for parents and teachers, and distributed it throughout the state.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.