Operation Predator: Protecting Kids from Sex Crimes

By Jim Kouri, CPP
September 27, 2005

The Department of Homeland Security’s US Immigration and Customs
Enforcement created new milestones in Operation Predator, the
Department’s ongoing campaign to combat child sexual predators worldwide.
The advances include the signing of an agreement with the National Center
for Missing & Exploited Children. The announcement to the nation’s police
commanders, through the National Association of Chiefs of Police, follows
a series of ICE enforcement actions in the Los Angeles area that have
resulted in the arrest of 99 convicted child sex offenders.

These latest developments represent important milestones for Operation
Predator, an ongoing Homeland Security initiative to safeguard children
worldwide from pedophiles, Internet predators, human traffickers, child
sex tourists, and other predatory criminals. Since Secretary Ridge
launched the Operation in July 2004 ICE agents have made more than 1,700
arrests nationwide, including more than 450 in the Los Angeles area.

Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia and NCMEC
President Ernie Allen signed a memorandum of understanding expanding the
ongoing cooperative efforts between the two organizations. As part of
that agreement, NCMEC will furnish ICE with evidence and leads it
receives on child pornography and suspected child sex violators through
its national CyberTipline.Com. In addition, ICE has agreed to provide
NCMEC with access to child pornography images and identifying information
contained in ICE’s data systems to assist NCMEC with its efforts to
locate missing and exploited children.

The agreement also calls for NCMEC to alert ICE’s Federal Air Marshal
Service when the organization receives an “Amber Alert” about the
kidnapping, endangerment, or abduction of children that might involve the
aviation domain. This action complements the new Code Adam Alert Program
that requires all federal facilities to have a plan to quickly locate
missing children. ICE’s Federal Protective Service is helping develop and
implement that plan. The Code Adam Program is designed to protect the
thousands of children housed in daycare facilities in federal buildings
and helps identify and track those children who have disappeared.

The agreement marks an official collaboration between Homeland Security
and NCMEC to combat child predators. The partnership will take place at
two levels: the sharing of information to help track down child predators
and possibly save victims; and a national public campaign to raise
awareness about the facts behind child exploitation crimes, how families
can protect their children, and how the public can work with ICE to
provide tips and take predators off the streets.

At a news conference, Assistant Secretary Garcia pledged that ICE will
continue to aggressively pursue child sexual predators and take them off
the streets. The latest Los Angeles area Predator arrests involved
targets in more than 20 communities in five area counties – Los Angeles,
Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange.

Among those arrested was Sostenes Garza-Sierra of Desert Hot Springs. The
69-year-old legal permanent resident was sentenced to eight years in
prison for molesting several children he transported when he worked as a
bus driver for the King City Transit Agency in Monterey County during the
1980s. Also arrested within the last week was Isidro Sanchez-Torres, a
35-year-old landscaper originally from Mexico, who was convicted in 1996
of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl in a public parking lot.

These latest Los Angeles area Predator arrests involved criminal aliens
from 11 different nations, including the Philippines, Mexico, Honduras,
Guatemala, Chile, Canada, Iran, El Salvador, Korea, and Peru. The
majority of those taken into custody are lawful permanent residents whose
crimes make them subject to removal from the United States. Those
individuals will be placed in immigration removal proceedings. The
criminal aliens who have no immigration status, or who have been
previously ordered deported, can be removed without a judicial hearing.

Sources: Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, National Association of Chiefs of Police

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