ICE investigative arm has e-seminar today

‘Project iGuardian’ fights youth exploitation

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News

MIAMI — The Homeland Security Investigations arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement started a new program Monday, June 15, and will host an online informational seminar today, Wednesday, June 17. Their public safety announcement is intended to help parents and educators combat youth exploitation online.

Project iGuardian shares information that can help keep children and teens protected from predators and settings online where they could be exploited sexually. The program is tailored to youth of all ages — from young children to teens — as well as parents and educators. It’s designed to encourage smart online practices and provide safety tips, a number to call to report suspicious activity, and a website with links to more information and resources.

The ongoing Project iGuardian campaign is designed to increase awareness in combatting online child sexual exploitation and instruct parents and educators how to safeguard youth from predatory situations during the COVID-19 pandemic and as summer break approaches.

“HSI’s Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU) has taken a proactive approach to public education and awareness by implementing an outreach program that offers virtual presentations for schools and youth organizations using the Project iGuardian educational tool,” said Erin Burke, section chief for HSI Cyber Crimes Center’s CEIU and Victim Identification Program. “We believe that steadfast and continued distribution of accurate and focused information will better prepare our communities to prevent instances of child exploitation.”

CEIU will host a universal virtual seminar for parents and educators TODAY, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. EDT. Those who have already submitted iGuardian presentation requests will receive an email invitation. You can also register for the event by using this link:

https://events-na8.adobeconnect.com/content/connect/c1/1124388651/en/events/event/shared/default_template/event_registration.html?connect-session=na8breezpbauawxppnq9n6in&sco-id=2905869150&charset=utf-8

Through these web seminars, parents, teachers and students will have the opportunity to learn more about the dangers of web-based environments, how to stay safe online and how to report abuse and suspicious activity — particularly while kids are spending more time indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic and summer break.

Parents, educators, or organizations interested in scheduling an individual event, can submit requests to iGuardian@ice.dhs.gov including the following information:
• Contact information including organization, name, phone number, location, and email; and,
• Type of audience: parent, guardian or educator; children (kindergarten – fifth grade; youth (sixth through eighth grade); or youth (ninth-12th grade).

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As part of its mission, HSI seeks to protect the public from crimes of victimization, and strategically targets and investigates individuals and networks that engage in child exploitation and other victim-based crimes. HSI special agents worldwide work tirelessly to protect children from exploitation by predators who are involved in the production, distribution, and possession of child sexually explicit material and who travel in foreign commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors. In fiscal 2019, the number of children HSI rescued and/or identified from instances of child exploitation grew to 1,069, compared with 859 the year prior. This fiscal year, as of May 2020, HSI has made more than 1,700 criminal arrests related to the exploitation of children.

Reporting suspected sexual exploitation can help minimize or stop further victimization, as well as lead to the identification and rescue of other possible victims. To report suspicious activity or instances of child sexual exploitation, contact HSI or your local police department.

Tips can be submitted to HSI online atice.gov/tipline, by phone at 866-DHS-2-ICE or by contacting your local HSI office. Reports can also be filed with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 800-THE-LOST or online.

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