The U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Child Exploitation

Postal inspectors have investigated the sexual exploitation of children for more than 100 years. In fact, it was the first federal law enforcement agency to aggressively identify, target, and arrest those who produce and traffic in child pornography. Inspectors are specially trained in techniques for investigating such crimes, but they do not work alone. The Postal Inspection Service collaborates with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (DOJ-CEOS), and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate child sexual exploitation that occurs in the mail or on the Internet.

The Postal Inspection Service also actively participates in Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice initiative that employs a multi-disciplined approach to protect children.

There are a few facts to keep in mind:

  • One in seven children aged 10 to 17 has been sexually solicited or approached via the Internet.
  • Only 12% ever told a parent.

Reduce the chances that a sex offender will reach your children:

  • Talk with them about their Internet activities.
  • Set rules for their Internet use and post those rules near their computer.
  • Report suspicious activity. Your early involvement and open communication can prevent your child from becoming a victim of a sex offender.
  • Report online activity when you have a “gut feeling” that something does not feel right to you or your child. Trust your intuition.

If you suspect someone is trying to sexually exploit your child online:

  • Do not delete any material.
  • Do not shut down the computer.
  • Turn off the monitor and report your concerns immediately to your local law enforcement agency and to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or use your phone or another computer to contact their CyberTipline.

Operation Spade was a three-year international investigation involving the production and sale of child exploitation material. The investigation began in October 2010, when Toronto police contacted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service after discovering that an online company, Azoz Films, was selling exploitive videos through the U.S. mail. Information gathered by the Postal Inspection Service was provided to the Toronto Police Service, which shut the company down.

Postal inspectors worked with the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section to identify the filmmakers’ U.S. customers. During the investigation, inspectors arrested 76 individuals. This is a crime that has a far reach, and in addition to the US arrests, the investigation led to the arrest of 263 overseas suspects. Those arrested spanned all segments of society. Registered sex offenders were among the customers, but so were school employees, attorneys, and law enforcement officials.

In 1996 postal inspectors announced that they had conducted an undercover investigation that dismantled a child pornography enterprise that had been bringing in $500,000 per year. The investigation used more than 133 search warrants to find and secure evidence leading to the prosecution of 95 child pornographers and molesters.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, working with the Department of Justice, conducted the largest pro-active undercover reverse sting operation of its time in 1986—Project Looking Glass. The goal was to identify and to utilize prosecutive tools under the relatively new Child Protection Act of 1984. This national initiative resulted in more than 230 search warrants and over 160 arrests.