SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – More than 1,000 students from the public schools in Guaynabo received tips on how to avoid falling victim to online sexual predators Monday through Thursday at the Guaynabo Police Athletic League Theater in Guaynabo. The presentation is the fifth child abuse prevention summit organized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Puerto Rico as part of ICE’s iGuardian initiative.
As part of Project iGuardian, HSI special agents in San Juan organized the Internet safety outreach for kids 12 to 16 years old to provide them with the necessary tools to make smart decisions when navigating in the Internet. HSI San Juan made the massive event possible by soliciting the support from Guaynabo Mayor Angel Perez-Otero and his team, as well as the Secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Education, Julia Keleher, who also attended the event Monday.
“HSI is committed to combating the sexual exploitation of children in Puerto Rico, as such, investigations of child sexual exploitation are among HSI’s primary investigative priorities,” said Orlando Baez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “We recognize the importance of education and community awareness regarding the dangers of online activity. Project iGuardian aims to counter a disturbing fact: many online child predators are able to find victims online because children are not aware of how dangerous online environments can be.”
Project iGuardian is focused on keeping children and teens safe from online predators through education and awareness. The project is an outreach effort to share information about the dangers of the online environment, how to stay safe online, and how to report suspicious activity.
Since inception of the program at the national level, HSI San Juan has reached more than 28,000 kids through iGuardian summits in Puerto Rico. These were held in San Juan in 2013 and 2017, Trujillo Alto in 2014, Toa Baja in 2015, Ponce in 2016 and Guaynabo in 2018. The 2017 edition of the iGuardian summit had to be cancelled due to the path of hurricanes Irma and Maria through Puerto Rico and the devastation they caused. The event was slated for September 2017 in Caguas.
HSI works closely with its law enforcement partners in Puerto Rico to coordinate and conduct Project iGuardian presentations around the year. The initiative builds on the outreach already being conducted by the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force in which local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources to jointly investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Through the task force, law enforcement officers are encouraged to share evidence, ideas, and investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, PRCACTF allows law enforcement to speak with one unified voice in defense of the children of Puerto Rico.