Sunday, September 28, 2003

Hunt them down

Federal crackdown: Child predators

It's far from just priests. In July the new Department of Homeland Security began a crackdown on sexual predators of children and child pornographers, and in just three months netted more than 1,000 arrests. The initiative named Operation Predator is designed to identify child predators and remove them from the United States if they are subject to deportation. One of President Bush's themes in his address to the United Nations this week was to combat the worldwide trafficking in sex slaves, many of whom are children.

The quick, dramatic arrests show the impact that vigorous law enforcement agencies can make in targeting those who sexually exploit children. Homeland Security's bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should keep the crackdown going and put such predators on ice for keeps.

On Friday alone, authorities reportedly arrested 56 people in Miami. ICE agents also have been comparing immigration violators with states' Megan's lists of child sex offenders. If a match is made, the offender can be deported.

ICE also seeks to identify children used in child pornography and rescue them. The ICE Cyber Smuggling Center has been able to positively identify hundreds of children and turn the information over to law enforcement agencies to prosecute predatory pornographers.

ICE also has targeted U.S. citizens who go on child-sex tours overseas. CNN reported that a Seattle man was arrested this week after he returned from Cambodia where he allegedly molested two boys. He is believed to be first in the nation to be charged under the new Protect Act enacted in April.

Since July, ICE has been operating a round-the-clock toll-free hotline (1-866-DHS-2ICE) for the public to report child sex offenders and others who prey upon children. ICE officials say one such tip let to the arrest of an AIDS-infected Kenyan national accused of raping a 14-year-old girl near Boston.

ICE should continue to strengthen its partnerships with other law enforcement agencies to hunt down, prosecute and deport, whenever possible, sexual exploiters of minors.

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