- Robert S. Mueller, III
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- White House Conference on Missing and Exploited Children
- Washington, D.C.
- October 02, 2002
Good morning! I would like to thank President Bush for hosting this first White House Conference on Missing and Exploited Children. It is so important to bring together the key players in protecting our children to discuss new strategies for cooperative action.
Let me give you just one example from our own case files. In the spring of 2001 a young girl playing outside her apartment was abducted by an unidentified man in a van. Our local field office quickly set up a 24 hour command center at the local police department. Neighborhood searches were conducted via the ground and air. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the America's Most Wanted television show gave the case media publicity. A few days later an employee at a bus station recognized the girl and called the police. The girl was recovered alive -- thanks to well orchestrated, cooperative action between law enforcement, the media, and the public.
It takes all of us working together to protect children in cases like this. State and municipal police are the first responders to reports of missing and exploited children and they request our assistance as needed. Community outreach, prevention, and education are also essential. And media coverage is key -- we are truly grateful for the role the media plays in community education and in getting the faces of missing children out to the public.
I know there is some concern that media attention on these cases can lead alarmed parents to think that child abductions by strangers has reached epidemic proportions. Fortunately, that is not the case. The number of individuals reported missing to the National Crime Information Center has actually decreased 14 percent between 1997 and 2001. There are no signs of an increase in the number of child abductions by strangers. My message to parents is this: be cautious, take time to educate yourselves and your kids.
Of course, one missing child is too many. At the FBI, saving lives, protecting the innocent, and hunting down those who prey upon them is at the heart of what we do. Many programs are changing in the FBI following last year's terrorist attacks, but protecting our children is one priority where our commitment is stronger than ever.
Two blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue at FBI Headquarters, we direct a national Crimes Against Children Program. We have at least two Special Agents in each of our 56 field offices specifically dedicated to this program. We have a Special Agent assigned full time to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children -- and we have recently assigned three analysts there to focus on incoming reports and tips.
We routinely put people like Richard Steve Goldberg on our list of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, right along with Usama bin Laden. Goldberg is being sought for allegedly preying on several young girls in California. Just last year, we captured two "top tenners" wanted for sexually exploiting children: Michael Scott Bliss and Eric Franklin Rosser.
Beyond this, we are actively investigating the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, child sex tourism, child trafficking, child pornography, domestic and international parental kidnappings, and the on-line sexual exploitation of children. And we bring some unique resources to the table, like our Evidence Response Teams, Rapid Start, criminal profilers and researchers from our National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime, our state-of-the-art laboratory, Victim/Witness Coordinators, and new Child Interview Specialists.
We have made Internet-facilitated crime a top priority and created a new Cyber Division to help us stay ahead of the curve in this growing area. We are also expanding "Innocent Images," a multi-agency, proactive initiative that targets pedophiles and child pornographers who prey on our kids over the Internet. Our current 24 undercover operations will be expanded to 30 by year's end.
Our recent "Operation Candyman," exposed an international on-line child pornography group and shut down their illicit web sites. As of September 6, we have arrested 111 individuals in the U.S., twelve of whom admitted to the molestation of at least 45 children.
Today's conference is a great opportunity for us to build on this positive momentum. I speak for all the men and women of the FBI, when I say that we look forward to working with all of you in the future to protect our kids from predators and to bring our lost children home.
Now, I would like to introduce our panel. First up, we have Claude Allen, Deputy Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Allen works closely with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on all major policy and management issues, and he serves as the department's Chief Operating Officer. HHS helps address the issue of runaway and missing children across the nation.
Next up is Lee Heath, Chief Postal Inspector, U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Chief Heath is a 31-year veteran of the Postal Inspection Service where he has worked to protect the USPS, its employees and customers from criminal attack and misuse. For years the Postal Inspection Service has played a critical role in fighting child pornography.
The third panelist is the Honorable Nina Hickson, Chief Presiding Judge, Fulton County Juvenile Court in Atlanta, Georgia. Appointed to the Juvenile Court in May 1999, Judge Hickson was a major proponent of legislation making pimping of minors a felony offense. She helped to establish "Angela's House," a safe house for sexually exploited girls, and she has won awards for her outstanding child advocacy.
Next, we will hear from Sergeant Gary O'Connor, now retired from the Lower Gwynedd Township Police Department in Pennsylvania. Sergeant O'Connor is a 33-year veteran of law enforcement and has spent two decades as a trainer for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
And rounding out the panel is Bradley Russ, Chief of Police, Portsmouth Police Department in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Chief Russ was appointed Chief of Police in 1999, after twenty years with the department. He has provided training to thousands of child protection professionals, and was a pioneer in the multi-disciplinary team approach to child protection. Chief Russ was also instrumental in the creation of New Hampshire's first Child Advocacy Center.
My thanks to all of you for being here. Let us begin with Claude Allen.