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Child Exploitation Investigations Unit


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"We protect and rescue children from criminals who seek to harm or exploit them."
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Each year, countless children around the world fall prey to sexual predators. These young victims are left with permanent psychological, physical, and emotional scars. When a recording of that sexual abuse is made or released onto the Internet, it lives on forever. It haunts the children depicted in it, who live daily with the knowledge that countless strangers use an image of their worst experiences for their own gratification.

As part of ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center (C3), the CEIU uses cutting edge investigative techniques to bring justice to consumers, producers and distributors of child pornography, as well as to predators engaging in child sex tourism. The efforts of the CEIU, in addition to ICE’s participation in national programs like Operation Predator and international partnerships like the Virtual Global Taskforce, have resulted in the rescue of thousands of children.

Seeking to end this criminal activity and protect children worldwide, HSI developed Operation Predator, an international initiative to identify, investigate and arrest child predators who:

  • Possess, trade and produce child pornography
  • Travel overseas for sex with minors; and
  • Engage in the sex trafficking of children.

HSI is a worldwide leader in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children. Prior to the creation of the agency in 2003, legacy U.S. Customs special agents investigated the disbursement of illegal child pornography that was often sent by mail or purchased overseas. With the advent of the Internet, the sharing and trading of child pornography now primarily occurs online. In addition to the legacy expertise, HSI special agents also have the authority to investigate the illegal movement of people and goods across U.S. borders, and because the Internet is borderless, the sharing of contraband online is an international crime. An image on the Web of a child being sexually abused can be seen by anyone anywhere in the world. Operation Predator draws on the agency's unique investigative and enforcement authorities to safeguard children. And, with 200 U.S. offices and more than 70 offices overseas, HSI has the ability to follow a case – to rescue a victim or arrest a predator – wherever in the world it may lead.

Collaborating with law enforcement partners around the country and the world, Operation Predator brings together an array of resources to target these child predators. As part of the effort:

  • HSI participates on all 61 Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces across the United States, which are led by state and local law enforcement agencies.
  • HSI established a National Victim Identification Program at its Cyber Crimes Center, combining the latest technology with traditional investigative techniques to rescue child victims of sexual exploitation.
  • HSI is the U.S. representative to the Interpol working group that locates new child sexual abuse material on the Internet and refers cases to the country that the abuse is believed to be occurring in for further investigation. Also, HSI special agents stationed internationally work with foreign governments, Interpol and others to enhance coordination and cooperation on crimes that cross borders.
  • HSI works in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and other federal agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children.
  • HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, joining law enforcement agencies, non-governmental organizations and private sector partners around the world to fight child exploitation information and images that travel over the Internet.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; TTY for hearing impaired: (802) 872-6196. This hotline is staffed around-the-clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may also be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or https://report.cybertip.org/.

You can help by reporting suspected abuse or by providing tips regarding fugitives and unknown suspects.

Predators Face Severe Penalties

Several laws increase the probability that sexual predators who harm children will suffer severe consequences, including the Mann Act, the 1994 Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Act, the 2003 Protect Act and the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. Federal law bars U.S. residents from engaging in sexual or pornographic activities anywhere in the world with a child under 18. ICE works with law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups around the globe to investigate crimes of this nature. Those convicted in the United States face significant penalties:

  • Up to 30 years in prison for possession, manufacture, distribution of child pornography
  • Up to 30 years in prison for traveling child sex offender, facilitator of sex with children, or a participant in these crimes
  • Up to a life sentence for sex trafficking children for prostitution

Virtual Global Taskforce logoAbout

The Virtual Global Taskforce is made up of law enforcement agencies, non-governmental organizations and private sector partners from around the world working together to fight child sexual abuse online. The taskforce aims to build an effective, international partnership of law enforcement agencies that helps to protect children from online child sexual abuse.

The Virtual Global Taskforce strives to make the Internet a safer place, identify, locate and help children at risk and hold perpetrators accountable.

Additional information, resources and reporting information are available at www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/30/2020