ATLANTA, GA – DeKalb and Fulton Counties have been awarded grants from the United States Department of Justice, Office
of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), that will be used for law enforcement resources in the fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation.
COPS Director Bernard Melekian came from Washington D.C. to Atlanta to greet the grant recipients, and at a morning news conference announced details of a national announcement for the Child Sexual Predator Prosecutio (CSPP) grant program. Twenty grants totaling $9.2 million are being awarded to agencies across the country. DeKalb County will be receiving $496,793. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office will be receiving $352,803. COPS provides much needed support to state and local government budgets, and will help the nation’s law enforcement agencies add and retain the manpower needed to fight child exploitation and abuse and prosecute these critical cases.
“This funding will assist in the fight against unfathomable crimes,” said COPS Director Bernard K. Melekian. “The agencies recognized this year have worked in great cohesion with federal offices and local law enforcement stakeholders, developing aggressive strategies to combat crimes against our children.”
First Assistant United States Attorney John Horn said in part, “In providing more than $1 million in grants to our partners in DeKalb and Fulton Counties, we are ensuring that the fight against these crimes is expanded and intensified, and these criminals will have fewer places to hide.”
Vernon Keenan, GBI Director, said, “The COPS grant will assist both Fulton And DeKalb County law enforcement in providing additional and much needed resources to combat the growing problem of sexual exploitation of children in their counties. Protecting our vulnerable children from the predators involved in child sex trafficking and child pornography should be and is a top priority for all law enforcement in Georgia. The GBI will continue to work with agencies across Georgia in investigating these crimes.”
●In DeKalb County, the CSPP grant will help the DeKalb County Police Department (DKPD) to locate, track, arrest, and prosecute child sexual predators more efficiently. CSPP funding will also provide equipment and investigative supplies gravely needed to analyze evidence, transport tools, and process cases. DKPD can better and more swiftly coordinate case information,
process digital media summaries, and evidence with partner agencies and advance information sharing between the DKPD and other agencies. Funding will also support overtime cost for detectives to investigate pending and future cases, and provide for specialized training and technical assistance critical to understanding how to diminish the devastation caused by sexual predators.
Quicker arrests and successful prosecution of cases will be direct outcomes of the funding.
●The Fulton County COPS grant addresses the critical problem of child sexual abuse. In 2006, the city of Atlanta suffered the unfortunate distinction of being called a “Child Prostitution Capital.” Five years later it continues to serve as a hub for the sexual exploitation of children. According to recently released data gathered by “A Future. Not a Past,” a statewide campaign of the Juvenile Justice Fund, between August 2007 to May 2008, researchers monitoring corridors and hotels in the Atlanta area known for prostitution activity found an average of 40 to 90 girls every month engaging in street prostitution.
Fulton County says the Fulton County District Attorney (FCDA) has been at the forefront in holding child sexual predators responsible for their crimes. Since 2001, its Crimes Against Women & Children’s Unit (CWAC) has indicted and prosecuted more commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) cases than any other office in the State. However, as cases continue to be
forwarded for prosecution and additional strategies are being developed requiring DA participation, the FCDA is unable to keep pace in a meaningful way because of a high caseload and limited resources to address core functions.
In Fulton County, the grant provides funds to hire additional staff as part of the CWAC unit. The main function of what it calls its “BEST” staff (“Bringing Exploitive Sexual predators To justice”) will be not only the investigation and prosecution of new and existing CSEC cases, but also, to provide community outreach and task force participation aimed at reducing CSE in Atlanta and Fulton County. The FCDA has amassed a great deal of knowledge related to CSEC that would be informative to parents, community partners, law enforcement partners and other prosecutor offices. The partnerships that the FCDA has established through its Community Prosecution Program and prevention/intervention programs make it an ideal conduit to bringing community awareness and involvement to this issue.