The bipartisan PROTECT Our Children Act of 2017 was signed into law late Thursday and reauthorizes for another five years the National Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Data System, a national network of 61 coordinated task forces that combat child exploitation across the country.
This law is a primary law enforcement tool used to keep online predators away from children. The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Lamar Smith (TX-21). The bill also reauthorizes the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction.
The PROTECT Our Children Act, originally 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 and Internet crimes against children. In less than 10 years, ICAC arrests have gone from 2,500 a year nationwide to over 9,300 in 2016 alone.
In order to develop effective response strategies to online child victimization, the ICAC offers guidance on victim support, forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, and prevention and community education. Additionally, the ICAC program trained over 45,000 law enforcement personnel, over 4,800 prosecutors, and more than 9,200 other professionals working in the ICAC field.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) issued the following statement after the President signed the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2017 into law:
“Our children deserve a future that is healthy, bright, and safe. The legislation signed into law yesterday puts us closer to that goal and builds on the original PROTECT Act I authored a decade ago. I’m proud that this legislation will help provide law enforcement officials with the tools and resources they need to swiftly identify internet predators and arrest these heinous criminals. We must continue to make the internet a safe space for all our children and guard against those who seek to exploit them. I am grateful for the efforts of Congressman Smith and the bipartisan spirit that allowed this vital bill to become law.”
Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21) issued the following statement:
“Reauthorization of the PROTECT Our Children Act ensures that law enforcement officials have the tools and resources they need to combat child predators. I appreciate the President’s support on this crucial issue and Senator Cornyn and Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s continued effort to protect children.”
Camille Cooper, Director of Government Affairs at the National Association to PROTECT Children issued the following statement:
"Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz's dedication to protecting children has never wavered. Simply put, thousands of American children have been rescued from the worst forms of abuse as a direct result of her efforts."