Lisa Madigan: Protecting Illinois children a priority

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am reminded of a conversation I had a few years ago with my oldest daughter, Rebecca, after she asked what I did at the office every day.

I answered by saying simply that “I help people.”

But of course, as with every kid, I got an immediate follow-up question, “How do you help people?”

So I took the opportunity to explain some of what I do to protect children and carefully talk to her about the painful reality that some people hurt children.

To put it mildly, much of the work we do at the attorney general’s office deals with issues that are every parent’s worst nightmare.

Among our most important initiatives, my office runs the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children task force, which investigates child exploitation crimes and trains law enforcement how to use technology to investigate these awful crimes. I am proud that since 2006, the task force has been involved in the arrests of 737 sexual predators.

It also has provided Internet safety training for nearly 350,000 parents, teachers and students and more than 17,000 law enforcement officials in the state.

Building upon this expertise, my office launched a targeted initiative to apprehend offenders who trade horrific images and videos of children, sometimes infants, being sexually abused. Investigators for my office’s “Operation Glass House” track child pornography with the same technology used to trade these vile images, and they have apprehended nearly 60 of the worst offenders, some of whom admitted to sexually assaulting children.

We also enforce the state’s Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act, which keeps the most sexually violent offenders in custody because they are likely to commit the same heinous crimes, often against children, if they have the opportunity. My office has handled hundreds of these cases to ensure the dangerous offenders are civilly committed and are not in our communities.

These are just a few of the initiatives we have undertaken in my time as attorney general to keep our children safe, but much like being a parent, the work is never over. New problems are always emerging.

The list of things parents need to worry about constantly grows. For our youngest children, we have to be aware of recalled drop-side cribs, high-powered magnets in toys, even arsenic in their rice baby food (who knew?). As they get older, the issues become increasingly complicated: cyberbullying, sexting, dating violence, synthetic drugs, prescription pain killer abuse and e-cigarettes.

And those issues come on top of the ones we already knew we would encounter as parents: drinking, smoking, drugs, sex and violence. It can be overwhelming.

On Mother’s Day, I want you to know you are not alone in protecting your children. As attorney general, I work to reduce all of these dangers — new and old — so if you need help, please reach out to us. Because, as I told Rebecca, that is my job.