Sessions: Victims of Child Exploitation 'Getting Even Younger'

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a morning training event with law enforcement that "investigations and prosecutions of child exploitation are increasing, while the victims are getting even younger."

The 2017 National Law Enforcement Traini​ng on Child Exploitation in Atlanta brought together some 1,500 attendees for three days of workshops on fighting child pornography and human trafficking.

"Few others can say that their work matters so much. You are rescuing and protecting innocent children, and bringing to justice truly evil people who commit horrific crimes," Sessions told the law enforcement officials, adding that since beginning his job he's "learned more about the great work being done today to combat child exploitation."

"I prosecuted a good number of child pornography cases when I was a United States Attorney three decades ago. But the landscape has changed profoundly since those days, as all of you know firsthand. By all accounts, the scourge of child exploitation is getting worse," he said. "We know that just here in the United States, many thousands of criminals are involved in this exploitation. Many millions of vile images and videos now circulate the globe, just a few clicks away for anyone who seeks them out."

Advances in technology have made investigators' work more challenging, he noted, as "no place is safe for our kids -- not even our homes or schools. Any child with access to a smartphone or tablet is vulnerable to predators."

Sessions said the dark web, where criminals operate to evade law enforcement detection, is one of the tools helping predators "target and groom our children for abuse, to find and encourage each other, and to evade law enforcement despite our best efforts."

"It's also crucial for us to build and strengthen partnerships. We know the child pornographers, sextortionists, and human traffickers work together and help each other. So we need a united front to stop them," he said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says their CyberTipline received 8.2 million reports last year ranging from child sex abuse images being circulated online to attempts to lure children over the internet. The center's Child Victim Identification Program, which tries to identify and rescue children in abusive online images, has reviewed more than 192 million images leading to the identification of more than 12,500 victims.

"Nothing less than a united effort will be enough to keep our children from becoming victims of exploitation. It will take all of us -- investigators, prosecutors, and victim support specialists; teachers, parents, and concerned citizens," Sessions told the law enforcement officials. "Standing together, we will send a message to the predators and pimps, the child abusers and the sextortionists and the traffickers: You will not harm our kids. And we will never rest until we find you and bring you to justice for your appalling acts."