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HomeNewsArchivesSymposium to Protect Children Draws Nearly 100 Agency Reps

Symposium to Protect Children Draws Nearly 100 Agency Reps

June 24, 2008 — Almost 100 people from agencies committed to protecting children from abuse and neglect gathered on St. Croix Tuesday for the start of a three-day Child Sexual Exploitation Symposium.
"Nothing is more important than protecting our natural resources — our children," said Dennis Kinney in opening remarks. He is FBI special agent acting supervisor for St. Thomas and St. Croix.
"We must protect and defend our children from violence and sexual offenders," Kinney added.
Organizers planned the symposium to provide professional training to local law enforcement and other professionals dealing with crimes of abuse committed against children. The media was only allowed to attend for opening remarks.
The focus of the training seminar is on decreasing the vulnerability of children to sexual exploitation and enhancing the capabilities of federal and local law enforcement investigators through coordinated programs, investigative assistance and task-force operations.
"We are focusing on crimes and providing the tools and training to federal agents, federal prosecutors, attorney generals, law enforcement and many other agencies to effectively help children," Kinney said.
The training was done with collaboration between the V.I. Department of Justice's St. Croix Child Abuse and Neglect Task Force, the Women's Coalition of St. Croix, and FBI Headquarters Crimes Against Children Unit of Washington, D.C.
The training to secure the lives of children was appropriately held in the high-security Almeric L. Christian Federal Building on St. Croix. Cameras and cell phones are not permitted in the building, so the guards held the attendees' phones.
The symposium, held in a large conference room, included nine lengthy training sessions. A talk on the behavioral dynamics of child sex offenders talk was given by James Beasly from the National Center for the analysis of Violent Crime. The presenter for interrogation and use of polygraph exams was FBI Special Agent Ivan Lopez from Puerto Rico. Martha Finnegan, FBI child interview specialist, discussed interviewing children and spotting signs of abuse. Cornelius D. Williams Jr., St. Croix criminal chief, presented a session on prosecuting crimes involving sexual exploitation of children.
"It is good to see so many first responders here helping in the fight against crimes against children," said Stephanie Crews-Jones, FBI Intelligence analyst. "There is a lot we can all get from this symposium."
Attending the symposium were representatives from Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), St. Croix Child Abuse and Neglect Task Force, Juan F. Luis Hospital, Queen Louise Home for Children, V.I. Superior Court, the Women's Coalition of St. Croix, the U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Marshal Service, Office of the Attorney General, V.I. Police Department, and the V.I. Departments of Education, Health, and Human Services.
"From this symposium we will all learn to be on the same page," said Clema Lewis, St. Croix Child Abuse and Neglect Task Force chairperson and the Women's Coalition co-director. "All these people from agencies working together will make children and the community feel safe."
Lewis said she has a dream that once the symposium is completed, a multi-disciplinary team can be created made up of professionals, police officers, nurses and advocates. The team would go into play as soon as abuse has been reported.
"The team approach is in the best interest of the child," Lewis said. "This way the child only has to tell the story once. Our best interest at heart is always to protect children."
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