Protecting Our Children
June 5, 2009
Overview of the types of crimes committed against children and the organizations partnering with the FBI to protect our nation's youth.
Mr. Schiff: Hello, I’m Neal Schiff, and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. In case you didn’t know it, the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division at Headquarters in Washington, D.C. has a Crimes Against Children Unit.
Mr. King: “The Crimes Against Children Unit, we provide program guidance and oversight to the agents and officers and task force officers throughout the United States that address the Crimes Against Children investigations. We help provide funding and obtain equipment and training for these officers and agents throughout the country.”
Mr. Schiff: That’s FBI Special Agent Rob King, and we asked: what are some of the types of crimes against youngsters that the FBI sees?
Mr. King: “Well, i t’s a plethora, and it ranges from none or small but from kind of both ends, from sexual abuse from family members all the way up to stranger abductions where the child is actually kidnapped, along with the sexual exploitation of children that are forced into prostitution within the United States.”
Mr. Schiff: Now the FBI doesn’t have to wait until a child is taken across a state line to get involved in something like this. If summoned, we go?
Mr. King: “Our unit receives intakes and Amber Alerts directly from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and we forward those immediately, no matter what time of day it is, to our agents in the field, and they actually contact the local police department and offer assistance, no matter what time of day or night .”
Mr. Schiff: What is the FBI’s relationship with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, known commonly as the ‘ National Center’ and NCMEC?
Mr. King: “We actually have an agent—myself—assigned as the liaison there and analyst, and also on the cyber side there’s additional FBI resources that are assigned full time to the Center to help bridge all information gaps related to crimes against children.”
Mr. Schiff: And the relationship that the Center has had with the FBI has been long-running now?
Mr. King: “It’s a great relationship. Just being able to be there and get information real time and the information that sometimes is called directly into the National Center, sometimes it’s very helpful for me to be able to get that and provide it out to the field on a real-time basis.”
Mr. Schiff: King also talked about the FBI’s relationship with state and local law enforcement agencies and the mix with the National Center.
Mr. King: "We’ve got the Innocence Lost National Initiative, which addresses children in the United States being prostituted, sexually exploited through prostitution. We also have the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Teams, which are agents that are specially trained to work child abductions. We are also teamed up with Team Adam from the National Center, which is made up of retired law enforcement officers that come out and assist with child abductions as well.”
Mr. Schiff: The number of child abductions is staggering, and King talked about the unhappy totals.
Mr. King: "The numbers do fluctuate. According to the National Center, in 2008 there were 56,500 children were reported missing as part of family abductions, where it was a family member either going through divorce hearings or custody issues. On another note, in 2008 there were 12,000 children reported missing as non-family issues; 155 of those were actually victims of stranger abductions. The others were, it could be your son didn’t go to John’s house, he went to Bill’s house, and didn’t tell you for a period of time, he was missing. But actually out of that 12,000, 155 were actually victims of stranger abductions in the United States.”
Mr. Schiff: How important is time?
Mr. King: “Well, statistically, 74 percent of children that are going to be killed when they are abducted are murdered within the first three hours. So by the time the parent does their initial look and they call local law enforcement who does a look, and then the FBI, I mean, that eats a lot of time there. So, we like to get there as soon as possible. So one of the things I stress parents is, don’t wait to call. I’d rather you call and we get turned around, because when our teams actually deploy for these things, if it’s where they have to fly to get there, or drive, a lot of times we turn them around because by the time the plane lands or they’re halfway there, it’s resolved, which is fine.”
Mr. Schiff: It’s really up to the parent or guardian to take the initial action here?
Mr. King: “Right. I think times have changed over the years. When I was growing up, you were allowed to play, and as long as you were home by the time the street light went out, you were good and you can run the whole neighborhood. And now it’s just, with the way things have changed, it’s not a good idea to let your child have free reign and be out. You have to know where they’re at and who they’re playing with at all times.”
Mr. Schiff: Any major cases that you can reference for our listeners?
Mr. King: “There are several cases—Casey Anthony, the little missing girl from Florida we were involved with; Sandra Cantu from Tracy, California, that was on the media as well; and recently, Leslie Perez, a little 5-year-old in Hidalgo, Texas, that was abducted. We actually got her back within 24 hours of the time, and it was a true stranger abduction. As far as international, the Brazilian court just ruled that a father in the United States should have custody of his child and be returned from Brazil back to the United States. And that’s something our unit has been working with the Newark Division and the Legat (FBI Legal Attaché) in Brazil to help get the child back to his biological father. And that actually just made the news that the court ruled he should come back home.”
Mr. Schiff: Now how can the public help? What’s the public’s role here, because law enforcement needs the help of the public to actually solve crimes?
Mr. King: “It’s very important. If you see anything that’s out of the norm—a strange vehicle, a strange car—don’t be afraid to call and report it to the local police department. If there is a child go missing, don’t think that anything you have seen is not important because sometimes, when you start putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together, that actually helps us get to the person we need to find to get the child back. So even the smallest thing needs to be reported.”
Mr. Schiff: The dedication of yourself, NCMEC, and police agencies is very strong in trying to get the kids back, and there’s a work ethic, I’m sure, that, ‘We’re not going to stop until the kid’s home safe’
Mr. King: “Right. When the agents, especially on the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Teams, it’s a voluntary thing. You compete for those and it’s based on your experience of working these type crimes, but everybody on this team wants to be there. So when we deploy, it’s not the normal nine-to-five job and you go home, you rest, you come back. If they’re there for two weeks, they work sun-up until they can’t go anymore, with very little sleep because it is so important. We’ve also started doing, assisting, on a case-by-case basis, some of the divisions and local agencies, with cold cases related to child abductions, and recently we deployed to Fort Wayne, Indiana on a case for two weeks, and the team there, they were at the command post at six a.m. and didn’t finish up until midnight every night. And that was a case that the child was actually murdered 20 years ago and they were just trying to find the gentlemen. So, just the dedication is amazing that these agents put in there, and local officers, when this happens.”
Mr. Schiff: These child abductions are serious. And any help you can provide if there’s a missing child in your area, call the police or the nearest FBI office. You can see flyers on missing children, abductions, and more on the Internet at www.fbi.gov. That concludes our show. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.
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