SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – More than 1,000 students from the public schools in Puerto Rico received tips on how to avoid falling victim to online sexual predators Thursday at the Pedro Rossello Convention Center in San Juan. The presentation was part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) iGuardian initiative and the 50th anniversary of the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico’s designation as an Article III court.
Earlier this year, Chief Judge Aida Delgado of the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico, reached out to HSI to solicit its support in organizing an educational event for children geared toward avoiding falling victim of online predators. The request came because of the success of HSI’s iGuardian initiative where the agency has reached out to more than 17,000 students in the past three years. In 2014, HSI San Juan held the first iGuardian summit in the municipality of Trujillo Alto and reached out to more than 5,000 students. In 2015, approximately 8,000 students benefited from the HSI’s iGuardian event in Toa Baja followed by the 2016 event where 4000 students attended the event in Ponce.
The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale, HSI San Juan Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricardo Mayoral, as well as heads of federal, state and local agencies attended the event providing their personnel and equipment for the exhibits that followed the Internet safety presentations. According to the participating agencies, cyber safety education not only aids in prevention, it also frequently generates valuable case leads.
The Puerto Rico Department of Education arranged for the transportation of students from schools in the San Juan educational region to the Pedro Rossello Convention Center.
HSI works closely with its law enforcement partners in Puerto Rico to coordinate and conduct Project iGuardian presentations around the year. The initiative builds on the outreach already being conducted by the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force in which local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources to jointly investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Through the task force, law enforcement officers are encouraged to share evidence, ideas, and investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, PRCACTF allows law enforcement to speak with one unified voice in defense of the children of Puerto Rico.
HSI is committed to combating the sexual exploitation of children; as such, investigations of child sexual exploitation are among HSI’s primary investigative priorities. The sexual abuse of children impacts the most vulnerable segment of our society.
HSI recognizes the importance of education and community awareness regarding the dangers of online activity. Project iGuardian aims to counter a disturbing fact: many online child predators are able to find victims online because children are not aware of how dangerous online environments can be.
HSI believes that providing children, teens, parents and teachers with information regarding the dangers of online environments and how to stay safe online can help prevent many instances of this crime. That is why HSI has partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's NetSmartz and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces to develop Project iGuardian.