Last week, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., introduced the )Providing Resources, Officers, and Technology to Eradicate Cyber Threats to Our Children (PROTECT Our Children) Act.”
The bill reauthorizes the National Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program and National ICAC Data System through 2024.
“This legislation supports the national network of 61 coordinated task forces that combat child exploitation across the country. By reauthorizing the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, it is a powerful law enforcement tool that keeps online predators away from children,” Wasserman Schultz’s office noted. “The original PROTECT Our Children Act that was passed in 2008 authorized the ICAC Task Force Program, a coordinated group of task forces representing 3,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies engaged in reactive and proactive investigations across the country. The ICAC task forces aid local and state law enforcement in the creation and implementation of effective responses to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation by offering guidance on victim support, forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, and community education.”
“Our children deserve a future that is bright and safe, and the ICAC helps us secure that possibility. In just 14 years, ICAC arrests have gone from 2,500 a year nationwide to over 10,400 in 2021 alone. I am proud to introduce legislation that reaffirms our commitment to America’s children and builds on the original PROTECT Act that I authored over a decade ago,” said Wasserman Schultz. “In light of a rapidly changing technological environment, we must continue to make the internet a safe space for all children and guard against those who seek to exploit them. I am grateful for the efforts of my colleagues and the bipartisan spirit that will allow this vital bill to come to the floor.”
U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Ann Kuster, D-NH, and Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., are co-sponsoring the bill.
“Our top priority needs to be the safety of our children. Unfortunately, as more and more of our daily lives are conducted online, it can be difficult to monitor their activities and protect them from those who prey on innocent children. The reauthorization of the PROTECT Our Children Act ensures that law enforcement officers have the tools and resources necessary to combat child predators,” said Chabot.
“Working to keep children safe online and prevent child sexual exploitation must be our top priority,” said Kuster who founded and currently co-chairs the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “Especially as kids are spending more time online, we must ensure law enforcement agencies have the tools and resources needed to protect children, help victims, and hold perpetrators of these horrific crimes accountable. This bipartisan legislation is crucial to keeping Granite State children safe.”
“I witnessed the horrific impact of child sexual abuse as a district judge,” said Reschenthaler. “The ICAC Task Force Program aids federal, state, and local law enforcement in stopping those who prey on our nation’s children. I’m proud to help the ICAC continue their important work of identifying and prosecuting dangerous criminals.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
Over in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Ct., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, are championing the bill.
“This measure is vital to giving law enforcement tools to combat the scourge of online child exploitation. Reauthorizing the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program will help law enforcement detect, investigate, and prosecute predators who perpetrate these hideous crimes. We must continue to protect victims and hold criminals accountable,” said Blumenthal.
“By providing law enforcement agencies more support and tools to combat cyber-crimes, we can build more barriers between predators and the victims they aim to target,” said Cornyn. “I urge my colleagues to reauthorize this legislation, which will support the victims of these heinous crimes and prevent future abuse.”
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Fraternal Order of Police, Rights 4 Girls, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and the National District Attorneys Association are all backing the proposal.
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