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Child Exploitation

Law enforcement joins forces to combat child exploitation in Orange County

SANTA ANA, Calif. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) have teamed up to create the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force to identify and arrest child predators operating in the county.

The Task Force will allow member agencies the opportunity to share information and resources, and bring their own unique authorities to apprehending those who hurt children. The participating agencies also plan to conduct educational and outreach programs for parents, law enforcement, and the public to raise awareness about the dangers children face on the Internet and how to reduce those risks.

Each year, millions of children fall prey to sexual predators, leaving them with permanent psychological, physical and emotional scars. The Task Force agencies will collaborate to investigate and arrest child pornographers, child sex tourists and facilitators, child molesters and online predators.

"HSI is committed to protecting children victimized by predators who think they can utilize technology and other means to hide," Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI in Orange County. "Some predators mistakenly believe the anonymity of cyberspace shields them from scrutiny; in fact, their use of computers and the Internet have given us new tools in our enforcement efforts to protect children."

"Protecting the children in our community is among the Orange County Sheriff's Department's highest priorities," said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. "The Orange County Child Exploitation Unit will employ the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children through the use of websites, chat rooms, newsgroups and peer-to-peer trading. Targeting these sophisticated child predators will help make the Internet a safer environment for our children."

"For the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, one of the most important things we can deliver is a child's safety," says B. Bernard Ferguson, inspector in charge for the Los Angeles Division. "Postal inspectors have a long history of aggressively investigating the predators who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of the U.S. mail. Although they now utilize more sophisticated technology, the USPIS is committed to working with law enforcement partners to identify and arrest suspects, no matter what means or methods they use."

Several laws increase the probability that sexual predators who harm children will suffer severe consequences. Federal law bars U.S. residents from engaging in sexual or pornographic activities anywhere in the world with a child under 18. Those convicted in the U.S. face significant penalties: a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for first-time offenders convicted of possessing, manufacturing, and distributing child pornography and child sex tourism crimes. Trafficking of children for prostitution carries a possible penalty of life in prison.

The Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through ICE's toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a Task Force partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.