DOJ Internet Safety Campaign Alerts Parents, Targets Potential Predators
Recent research shows that children continue to face threats from sexual predators while online. A 2005 survey conducted by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire revealed that one in seven children were approached with unwanted online sexual solicitations and a third were exposed to unwanted sexual material.
To combat the online exploitation of children, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a month-long national media campaign on November 12, 2008, as part of its Project Safe Childhood (PSC) initiative. The $2.5 million campaign promoted public service announcements (PSA) in English and Spanish on national cable television channels, in print, and on Internet promotions such as banner and pop-up ads, and Webisodes.
Launched in 2006, the PSC initiative addresses the spread of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children. For more information, and to view the PSAs, visit the
PSC Web site.
Internet Crimes Against Children
OJJDP’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program helps state and local law enforcement agencies develop effective responses to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. For more information about ICAC, visit OJJDP's Web site.
Regional promotions—radio spots, movie theater PSAs, and media events—will be held in Miami, St. Louis, Seattle, and San Diego. These cities were chosen for additional media exposure based on the number of online sexual crimes against children reported in these locations, population size, and media market size.
The PSAs produced for the campaign promote two themes: one reminds parents that the Internet can be an unsafe place for children and encourages them to supervise their children's use of the Internet. The other targets would-be child sexual predators, warning them of the serious criminal penalties awaiting those who victimize children. While ads have been produced previously to educate parents about online sexual predators, this is the first time PSAs have addressed potential predators.
The PSAs were produced collaboratively by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the Hispanic Communications Network, and the Internet child safety organizations INOBTR (“I Know Better”) and iKeepSafe.
New Name and Web Address for National Sex Offender Public Registry
In November 2008, DOJ announced improvements to the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) and a new Internet domain name, www.nsopw.gov. The new Web address will replace www.nsopr.gov. The Web site, initially known as the National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR), was established in 2005 and renamed in 2006 by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act to honor 22-year-old college student Dru Sjodin of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Sjodin was kidnapped and murdered on November 22, 2003, by a sex offender who crossed state lines to commit this crime.
The Web site now includes a new look, is more user friendly, and provides enhanced search capabilities to locate sex offenders. NSOPW is administered by OJP’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART).
NSOPW allows jurisdictions to participate in an unprecedented public safety resource by sharing public sex offender data nationwide. It is the only government system in existence that links state, territory, and tribal sex offender registries to one national search site. With a single query, NSOPW currently searches sex offender registries in up to 50 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia to deliver matched results based on name, state, county, city, or zip code. NSOPW will soon link to newly established sex offender registries, including certain American Indian tribes and additional U.S. territories.
Since its launch in the summer of 2005, there have been more than 17 million NSOPW user sessions, with 2.3 billion hits. Today, NSOPW remains extremely active, averaging 2.3 million hits per day and 14,000 daily users.
Communicating Across State and County Lines
Incompatible radio systems can complicate efforts to arrest suspects. An article in the October 2008 issue of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Journal explains how the City of Danville, Virginia, teamed up with surrounding law enforcement agencies—the Caswell County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office in Virginia, and the Virginia State Police—to use Internet technology to bridge the gaps in their communications systems.
The five jurisdictions participated in what has become known as the Piedmont Regional Voice over IP Pilot Project. NIJ provided technological support to the public safety agencies, and two vendors donated equipment and services so that the police departments could test a new communications link provided by voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). This protocol converts voice signals into digital form, allowing them to travel over the Internet or private networks that use Internet technology before they are converted back to ordinary voice signals at the receiving end.
Like the other agencies participating in the pilot project, the Danville police already had solid voice radio systems on their side of the state line. Patrol officers were frustrated, however, by their inability to talk to officers who, although across the state line, were only a short distance away.
A Danville patrol officer would have to radio the Danville dispatcher, who would then pick up the telephone and call another dispatcher, who in turn would relay the information by radio. This arrangement delayed communications and increased the risk that important information might be garbled as it changed hands so many times.
To help overcome these barriers, Cisco Systems, Inc., a supplier of Internet networking equipment, worked with the participating law enforcement agencies to set up a VoIP system that connected the various police departments' existing land mobile radio networks to an interoperable Internet protocol network. The new system allows communication using computers or standard radio equipment.
The new system also includes a dedicated connection between police dispatch centers. Dispatch personnel can now communicate directly with one another, and they can add more radio resources to the network as needed using standard "patch" procedures.
Joseph Heaps, deputy chief of NIJ's Information and Sensors Technologies Division and program manager for the project, said this pilot has been valuable both because the technology works and because other public safety agencies can learn what obstacles they may face in similar efforts.