Secretary Ridge Announces "Operation Predator"

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Wednesday, 9 July 2003

ICE to Begin a New DHS Initiative Targeting Child Predators 89 Sexual Predators Taken off Streets in Latest Roundup

The Department of Homeland Security today announced Operation Predator, a comprehensive DHS initiative designed to enhance the Administration's efforts to protect children from pornographers, child prostitution rings, Internet predators, alien smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals. The President has made it clear that anyone who harms a child will be a priority target of law enforcement in this Administration.

"Operation Predator integrates the Department's authorities to target those who exploit children," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. "The Department of Homeland Security is coordinating the Department's once-fragmented investigative and intelligence resources into a united campaign against child predators."

The Department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will house the initiative from its headquarters in Washington, D.C., coordinating all field enforcement actions from the ICE CyberSmuggling Center in Fairfax, Virginia. Operation Predator draws on the full spectrum of cyber, intelligence, investigative, and detention & removal functions of ICE to target those who exploit children.

"There is nothing more important than protecting our children - the future of our nation. Through Operation Predator, ICE is in a unique position to carry out this critical responsibility," said Michael J. Garcia, Acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE is partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to facilitate the exchange of information on missing children, as well as investigative and intelligence leads. For the first time an ICE Senior Special Agent has been assigned to NCMEC to coordinate leads developed by NCMEC that require ICE law enforcement capabilities. In addition, ICE will work with the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Justice to partner with NCMEC in an effort to develop a National Child Victim Identification Program.

"Combating child victimization in all its forms requires the cooperation and collaboration of law enforcement personnel worldwide," stated NCMEC President Ernie Allen. "Operation Predator strengthens the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies to investigate and apprehend those who prey upon children, while providing the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the public the tools to assist with identifying perpetrators and reporting crimes."

John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" also commended the new effort: "I thank Secretary Ridge and the Department of Homeland Security for its efforts to increase the protection of America's children. Child Predators are everywhere; and they are cunning. It gives me tremendous hope that the future will be even brighter and safer for kids everywhere thanks in part to Operation Predator."

As part of its three-pronged strategy of identifying, investigating, and removing child predators from our streets, ICE will use a single web portal to access all publicly available Megan's Law websites. In addition, ICE is creating a new multi-agency unit at its CyberSmuggling Center to oversee and coordinate Operation Predator activities at the national level. Already, Operation Predator is yielding dramatic results, including the following:

  • During a weeklong, nationwide enforcement action ending on June 30, ICE fugitive operations teams apprehended 89 foreign nationals who had been convicted of sex offenses, but had subsequently evaded law enforcement efforts to remove them from the country. In Chicago alone, ICE teams arrested 37 convicted alien sex offenders during this period.
  • Separately, since March 1, 2003, ongoing ICE investigations into suspected child sex offenders have resulted in 88 arrests, 56 indictments, 77 convictions, and 134 seizures. ICE special agents have also opened 192 new investigations into suspected child sex offenders during this time frame.
  • The new National Child Victim Identification Program has already positively identified exploited children featured in approximately 300 child pornography images. ICE has provided this information to several law enforcement agencies around the nation for investigative follow-up and judicial action. In one example, the New York State Police sent ICE several child pornography images. Using the new National Child Victim Identification System, ICE agents were able to positively match 5 of the images to actual children. The New York State police used this information to prosecute a child pornography defendant who was claiming that the images were "virtual" or "morphed" images -- not actual images of real children. The jury found the defendant guilty based on this evidence proving the images depicted real children. In another example, ICE agents used this system to help North Carolina authorities match 54 child pornography images to actual children. This information was used by state authorities in North Carolina to help bring an indictment.
  • For more information, or to contact National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, see their website at: www.missingkids.org

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