TALLAHASSEE, FL – LAWFUEL – Law News Network – Attorney General Bill McCollum today joined U.S. Attorneys Greg Miller and Paul Perez, representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office and members of the law enforcement community for the unveiling of a Public Service Announcement campaign encouraging internet safety. In addition to joining in the roll-out of the new campaign, the Attorney General received an official endorsement from the Florida Sheriffs Association for the CyberCrimes Against Children Act of 2007, a critical piece of legislation intended to strengthen the fight against those who commit internet crimes against children.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our children safe from the people who seek to victimize them over the internet,” said Attorney General McCollum. “These people will stop at nothing to exploit Florida’s children and we must do everything within our power to keep them away from our children and put them behind bars.”
The “Think Before You Post” campaign, launched today by the U.S.
Department of Justice, the Ad Council and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), is designed to educate teenage girls about the potential dangers of posting and sharing personal information online.
Popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook make it easy for teens to post and share personal information, pictures and videos, which may make them more vulnerable to online predators. Research shows that teenage girls are particularly at risk of online sexual exploitation.
“As a result of Project Safe Childhood and its unprecedented effort to bring an entire community together to tackle the problem of online child exploitation, predators and would-be predators are now fully aware that their actions will not be tolerated in the state of Florida,” said U.S.
Attorney Greg Miller. “Rest assured, we will find you, we will aggressively prosecute you, and we will make sure you will never be in a position to harm the vulnerable youth in our community ever again.”
Attorney General McCollum praised the diligent efforts of the Department of Justice, calling their Project Safe Childhood initiative an excellent effort to protect children from the dangers lurking online.
Additionally, the Attorney General was joined by Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, several sheriffs from around the state and various members of the law enforcement community.
The sheriffs were in attendance to officially endorse the CyberCrimes Against Children Act of 2007, which addresses many of the issues with Florida’s current laws addressing internet solicitation of children.
“We sincerely appreciate the strong spirit of cooperation demonstrated which both of these agencies have demonstrated,” said Leon County Sheriff from the Sheriffs Assoc. “We look forward to continuing the arrests and convictions of the internet perverts that prey upon our children.”
The bill, which was unanimously approved by all referenced Senate and House committees prior to the opening day of the 2007 Legislative Session and has received strong support from both Senate President Ken Pruitt and Speaker of the House Marco Rubio, will strengthen penalties for the possession or distribution of child pornography. Additionally, the bill creates a new, separate penalty against sexual predators who communicate with a child online and then travel to meet that child for the specific purpose of further abusing him or her. The maximum prison terms will increase threefold from five years in prison to 15 years.
The legislation will also increase penalties when an offender misrepresents his age in order to seduce a child over the Internet. This technique, known as “grooming,” is a behavior where the sex offender attempts to demonstrate that he is closer in age to the child in order for the child to feel more comfortable with the online communication. By creating a false sense of trust conveyed by a “common age,” the offender breaks down the child’s suspicions and defenses.
McCollum also took time to thank Representative Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, the chair of the House Safety and Security Council for his recommendation that the Florida House of Representatives support a budget request that will provide the Attorney General’s CyberCrimes Unit with a much-needed expansion of staff allowing the unit to more effectively combat internet crimes against children. The six-person unit works to combat computer-facilitated crimes against children and the budget request will add 50 full-time employees to the unit and enable the Attorney General to open new offices for the unit throughout the state. Additionally, McCollum expressed his appreciation to Senator Victor Crist, R-Tampa, and the Florida Senate for their unwavering support of the budget request.
“In this information age that we now live in, it is vital that law enforcement have the tools they need to track down the individuals who use the internet to prey on children,” said Representative Dean. “It is my honor to support the Attorney General in his efforts to protect Florida’s children.”
Today, more than 77 million American children regularly use the internet, and the statistics on child pornography are alarming. According to the Federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Florida ranks third in the nation in the volume of child pornography. Nationally, one in seven children between the ages of ten and 17 have been sexually solicited online.
To combat the growing number of internet crimes against children, the Attorney General’s Child Predator CyberCrime Unit works diligently to protect children from computer-facilitated sexual exploitation. The Unit accomplishes this by working cooperatively with statewide law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to provide resources and expertise. Additionally, the Unit works to prevent the spread of these crimes through education and community awareness. The CyberCrime Unit is a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) of North Florida. More information about Attorney General McCollum’s efforts against cybercrime is available online at http://myfloridalegal.com.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney General’s Project Safe Childhood initiative is a joint effort of federal, state and local law enforcement, along with community leaders, designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.
Together with Florida Attorney General McCollum, the following individuals participated in today’s press conference:
– Honorable Greg Miller, United States Attorney, Northern District of
– Honorable Paul Perez, United States Attorney, Middle District of
– Honorable Willie Meggs, State Attorney, Second Judicial Circuit
– Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell, president, Florida Sheriff’s
– Jeff Sloman, First Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of
– Representatives from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
– Michael Folmar, Special Agent-In-Charge, Jackson Field Division,
Federal Bureau of Investigation
– Robert Weber, Special Agent-In-Charge, Jacksonville Field Division,
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
– Gary Perkins, executive director, Florida Sheriffs Association
– David Dees, director, Law Enforcement Services, Florida Sheriffs
– Citrus County Sheriff Jeffrey Dawsey
– Jefferson County Sheriff David Hobbs
– Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young
– Madison County Sheriff Peter Bucher
– Captain James Elensky and Captain Robert Oakman, Polk County
– Mitch Nixon, Gainesville Police Department, North Florida Internet
Crimes Against Children Task Force