State News

October 18, 2013

New program uses veterans to fight child predators

ATLANTA — After spending years working as a Marine Corps intelligence specialist tracking down enemies abroad, Jeremy Boutwell is hoping to use those skills to track down child predators here at home.

He was one of 17 military veterans sworn in at a ceremony Friday in Washington as the inaugural class of the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Rescue Corps, a one-year pilot program announced last month. HERO Corps participants will be sent around the country to offices of Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Members of the military and law enforcement officers share a desire to protect, defend and get the bad guys, which makes veterans a good fit for the new program, said Brock Nicholson, who heads the ICE office in Atlanta, where Boutwell will be working.

“These guys that were heroes in one arena, we want to make them heroes in the law enforcement arena,” Nicholson said.

The program participants have just finished seven weeks of computer forensic analysis and digital evidence collection training at Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va. Before that, they had four weeks of training at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to learn about child exploitation cases, as well as state and federal criminal laws on the issue.

The veterans will conduct computer forensic exams under direct supervision of Homeland Security Investigations special agents to identify and rescue children who have been victims of sexual abuse and online sexual exploitation.

Boutwell was an 18-year-old Marine Corps machine gunner from San Antonio when he was injured in March 2004 while on patrol near the Syrian border in Iraq by an improvised explosive device. Wanting to remain in active service, he underwent surgeries and trained as an intelligence specialist. He has been deployed to Iraq, Haiti and the Horn of Africa.

After retiring from the Marine Corps about 15 months ago, he was looking for something worthwhile to do while pursuing a degree. His Veterans Affairs counselor gave him a flier about the HERO Corps pilot program, and he said he thought it would be a good fit, as many skills he learned working in military intelligence can be used to track child predators.

He was aware of child exploitation and sexual abuse, but said he didn’t quite understand the scope of the problem before training.

“Most people are not aware or they don’t want to be aware because it’s just something that’s hard to understand and something that’s hard to swallow for most people,” he said. “I was one of those people before I joined this program. I was totally ignorant of the depth of the problem that exists.”

The issue’s widespread nature is one reason ICE was eager to participate when the National Association to Protect Children approached the agency with the idea to train wounded warriors as forensic analysts to help track child predators, said Acting ICE Director John Sandweg.

He said targeting domestic and transnational child exploitation has been a top priority for the agency, which is perhaps best known for its immigration enforcement actions. Its Homeland Security Investigations division has initiated more than 29,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 for these crimes, according to agency data.

Georgia has become something of a hub for child exploitation activity, and the Atlanta ICE office has been at the forefront in fighting it, along with the help of local elected officials and organizations, Nicholson said. That’s one reason four of the 17 graduates of the first HERO Corps class are coming to Georgia — two to Atlanta and two to Savannah.

Other members of the inaugural class will go to offices in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

The program is being funded by a combination of public and private funds, and Sandweg said the hope is to secure future funding to institutionalize and expand it. The next recruitment opportunity is expected to start early next year.

 

1
Text Only
State News
  • One charged in death of Dalton woman, another sought

    A Dalton woman found dead in Calhoun earlier this month is believed to have died of a drug overdose after two Calhoun residents abandoned her in a car behind the VFW on East Line Street, Lt. Tony Pyle with the Calhoun Police Department said Wednesday afternoon.

    June 18, 2014

  • Guard shot at FedEx center to undergo 14th surgery

    A security guard critically wounded when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility is scheduled to undergo his 14th operation Tuesday.

    May 27, 2014

  • Arson ruled out as cause of chemical plant fire

    Police say investigators have been able to rule out arson or foul play as the cause of a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles.

    May 27, 2014

  • Teen tied to shopping cart drowns in lake

    Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say a teen has died after being tied to a shopping cart and pushed into Lake Allatoona.

    May 25, 2014

  • Underground tattoo artists frustrate officials

    The work of tattoo artists whose living rooms double as body art studios might come cheap, but experts say the unsterile -- and illegal -- work environments could leave clients in pain long after the initial sting of the needle subsides.

    May 25, 2014

  • No runoff lets Republicans focus on Rep. Barrow

    While Georgia Republicans have to wait until July to settle runoff races for the U.S. Senate and three open House seats, one of the biggest GOP victories in the primary elections last week went to Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen.

    May 25, 2014

  • Audit probes juvenile justice turnover rate

    A state audit cites low pay, long hours and management concerns as reasons for a relatively high turnover rate at the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

    May 25, 2014

  • Atlanta schools ex-tech director to be sentenced

    After his relationship with the superintendent of Atlanta’s school system soured, a former technology director for the district set up a kickback scheme to pad his pockets before he left his job, according to court documents.

    May 24, 2014

  • Georgia veteran, 92, honored at surprise ceremony

    Family and friends surprised a 92-year-old World War II veteran from Georgia on Memorial Day by honoring him and presenting him with the World War II Victory Medal.

    May 24, 2014

  • Police: Massive chemical plant fire extinguished

    Authorities say a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles has been extinguished.

    May 24, 2014