Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Prosecuting sex crimes against children a top priority

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the opening session of the National Law Enforcement Conference on Human Exploitation at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, Tuesday morning, June 6, 2017, in Atlanta. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that one of his top priorities is investigating and prosecuting sex crimes against children despite technology that has made it easier for criminals to avoid detection.

Sessions spoke to police and prosecutors gathered in Atlanta for a conference on child exploitation, including child pornography and sex trafficking. Sessions, a former prosecutor in Alabama, acknowledged the challenges law enforcement face, including technology that allows predators to go undetected while phones and tablets make it easier to reach young children.

"Nothing less than a united effort will be enough to keep our children from becoming victims of exploitation," Sessions said. "It will take all of us - investigators, prosecutors and victim support specialists; teachers, parents and concerned citizens."

Sessions warned predators they will be found and prosecuted, citing recent federal cases that involved law enforcement working across state lines in Alabama and Georgia to arrest 29 people suspected of possession and distribution of child pornography, and a Kansas child pornography distribution case prompted by several callers to a police tip-line.

Sessions strayed briefly from his prepared remarks to reiterate his belief that tougher tactics compared to those favored by the Obama administration will lower violent crime overall and could reduce the soaring number of drug overdose deaths.

"The murder rate a few years ago was half what it was in 1980, a tremendous achievement," Sessions said. "But the truth is, we're seeing something that I don't think is a blip. We had an 11 percent increase in murder last year."

According to the latest FBI statistics for 2015, the estimated number of murders increased by 10.8 percent from the previous year. The FBI said the total was a 9.3 percent drop since estimates in 2006.

Sessions said incarceration may be the only sure way to stop people accused of committing sex crimes against children from abusing others in the future. Critics say more imprisonment will make prisons overcrowded without a long-term benefit.

Sessions didn't address Trump's recent criticism of the Department of Justice. On Monday, the president took to Twitter to blast the department's legal strategy for depending a travel ban before the U.S. Supreme Court.

He also didn't reference a government contractor in Georgia who was charged on Monday with leading a classified report containing "Top Secret level" information to an online news organization. The woman's attorney has declined to confirm whether she is accused of leaking an NSA report on Russian hackers. The report was published online Monday by The Intercept.