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MIAMI — Fifteen military veterans who successfully completed a one-year intensive computer forensics training program with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have all been offered permanent positions with the agency to continue working in the fight against online child sexual exploitation.
The program, called Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Recue Corps, or HERO Corps, trains, equips and embeds wounded warriors into computer forensics country to assist special agents with criminal investigations involving child pornography and online sexual exploitation. The HERO program is the result of a partnership between HSI, U.S. Special Operations Command's Care Coalition and the National Association to Protect Children.
Most of the 15 HEROs participating in the pilot program are wounded, injured or ill special operations forces veterans. All but one of the interns has accepted the job offer. The 14 who did accept jobs officially began working as HSI employees Monday.
Since graduating from the initial 10-week training in October 2013, HERO Corps participants have been conducting on-the-job training at HSI offices in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Fairfax (Virginia), Las Vegas, Memphis (Tennessee), Miami, New Haven (Connecticut), New Orleans, Orlando (Florida), Phoenix, Savannah (Georgia), Seattle (Washington) and Tampa (Florida). There, they have been working under the direct supervision of HSI special agents, conducting computer forensic exams, assisting with criminal investigations and helping to identify and rescue child victims.
Prior to being deployed to field offices, the HEROs spent six weeks learning computer forensic analysis and evidence gathering at HSI's Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Virginia. They also attended four weeks of intensive training at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee where they learned about child exploitation cases and the federal and state criminal laws that they would be helping to enforce.
The next class of HEROs has already been selected and will begin training later this year. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or applying should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All applicants are interviewed and vetted to ensure a good fit with the HERO Corps.
The HERO program is made possible by a five-year $10 million initiative funded with private sector money that underwrites training, logistics and equipment.
In fiscal year 2013, more than 900 victims of online child sexual abuse have been identified and more than 2,000 child predators arrested by HSI on criminal charges related to the online sexual exploitation of children. Since 2003, HSI has initiated more than 29,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 individuals for these types of crimes.
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. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.