Special agents who investigate sexual crimes against children are my heroes because they rescue and protect the most vulnerable segment of our population, are confronted with disturbing content on a daily basis, and can be at significant risk during undercover operations.
We need to be talking more about the work that these heroes do. We also need to address what they are fighting against: people who have been abusing four year-old girls since infancy causing them to require reconstructive surgery of their sexual organs; predators who kill prepubescent orphans with their hardcore sexual practices and then dispose of the bodies in makeshift graves (pedophiles then buy videos documenting these attrocities for up to $10,000), or families in developing countries who rent out their babies and toddlers to child sex offenders. One of the things we must aggressively address is the issue of traveling child sex offenders. Governments need to not only inform the population of the horrendous acts that these predators commit, but also work together to fight them. One way in which this can be accomplished is by developing systematic and automated information exchanges between countries.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is engaged in doing precisely that. Since 2007, HSI has been operating the Angel Watch program that alerts governments across the globe about the arrival of a previously convicted child sex offender. In 2015, Angel Watch issued alerts about 2,172 ex-offenders worldwide, 146 of which were to twenty-two EU Member States. The U.S. sends this information so that a government can then take the measures it deems necessary to protect its children. In February 2016, the Angel Watch program was transformed from a pilot program into a permanent one. As a result, an Angel Watch Center was established within the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit of HSI.
In June 2015, the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency signed a letter of intent with HSI to share information on previously convicted child sex offenders traveling from the United Kingdom to the United States. This was the first bilateral agreement of its kind. Since then, I have approached other EU Member States about exchanging information on traveling child sex offenders. On September 22, 2016, the Slovak Republic became the second country to sign this letter of intent. (see press release September 23, 2016)
In September 2015, HSI co-chaired an Experts Meeting with the European Commission’s Directorate General Home Affairs on EU – U.S. operational cooperation to fight transnational child sex offenders. The participants discussed mechanisms that would enable EU Member States to adopt an automated, systematic information exchange about previously convicted child sex offenders traveling to the U.S. The U.S. Mission to the EU will continue working closely with the European Commission to improve Angel Watch referrals, such as by identifying proper communication channels and establishing a correspondence of offenses between U.S. legislation and that of EU Member States.
Governments need to increase their collaborative efforts by, for example, exchanging information on traveling child sex offenders on a more systematic and automated basis. This is just one of the many steps countries can take to catch these predators and bring them to justice. We praise the hard work of all law enforcement officers globally, who are fighting this battle for us in the field and within the government.