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Adam Walsh Act Fifteenth Anniversary


How the abduction, murder of a 6-year-old boy energized federal efforts to combat sex offender violations

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For immediate release

U.S. Marshals Office of Public Affairs (703) 740-1699

Washington – Today marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA). The law is named for 6-year-old Adam Walsh, who was abducted from a Florida mall on this same date in 1981 by a serial killer. Adam's abduction and murder served as a catalyst for change in the way the nation deals with crimes against children. This tragedy launched his father, John Walsh, on a lifelong mission to prevent similar attacks on other children. John Walsh's efforts resulted in the establishment of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the television show America’s Most Wanted.

Those two projects alone have brought hundreds of wanted individuals to justice.

As the lead federal agency for sex offender violations, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) created the Sex Offender Investigations Branch to direct and coordinate implementation of the agency’s three primary responsibilities under the Act:

  1. Assist state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities in the location and apprehension of noncompliant and fugitive sex offenders
  2. Investigate violations of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) for federal prosecution
  3. Assist in the identification and location of sex offenders relocated as a result of a major disaster

To ensure the safety of America's communities and children, the U.S. Marshals Service instituted an aggressive Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) enforcement strategy. The agency designated experienced criminal investigators within all U.S. judicial districts to spearhead implementation of the legislation. At the same time, the U.S. Marshals Service established and maintains effective contacts with sex offender registration authorities, corrections officials, and other law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

"When the Adam Walsh Act became law in 2006, the U.S. Marshals Service was well positioned to carry out its new responsibilities because the agency had already established a foundational network of Deputy U.S. Marshals working alongside law enforcement officers from hundreds of state, local, and federal agencies, all dedicated to making communities safer,” said U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington. "Over many years, we have collaborated with our extensive network of law enforcement partners to apprehend fugitives. After the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) became law, it was a natural act to use this same network to assist our partners with non-compliant sex offenders. We are very proud to work with our partners at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Justice Department's Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) to execute this important mission of bringing to justice those who would harm a child."

"In the 15 years since the passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) through July 2021, the U.S. Marshals Service initiated more than 39,600 federal investigations and arrested more than 5,500 individuals for Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) violations. In the same timeframe, U.S. Marshals arrested more than 41,000 individuals wanted on state and local arrest warrants—charging them with failure to register as sex offenders."

"The Marshals Service has executed more than 4,000 sex offender compliance and enforcement operations, partnering with more than 58,500 individual law enforcement officers from more than 16,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and U.S. territories. During these operations, the U.S. Marshals Service assisted state and local enforcement partners with more than 634,000 compliance checks on known sex offenders."

Under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA), the Department of Justice established the SMART Office to help jurisdictions implement the standards of Title I, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) and to provide federal-level coordination of a comprehensive system across the United States. Since 2007, the Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) Office has awarded more than $156 million to support implementation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and assumed responsibility for the Dru Sjodin (pronounced Show-din) National Sex Offender Public Website ( that allows anyone to conduct free searches for sex offender information across all jurisdictions from one website. Each month, users conduct an average of 4.3 million searches on The Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) Office was also an initial funder of DOJ's Tribal Access Program (TAP), which gives tribes access to national crime information systems for criminal and civil purposes. To date, there are 99 tribes participating in TAP, contributing to their ability to increase public safety on tribal lands.

"The passage of the Adam Walsh Act was an important step in helping jurisdictions monitor the whereabouts of sex offenders and pursue absconders. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA) has strengthened the tools jurisdictions have to register and track sex offenders, while increasing information sharing with the public and among law enforcement agencies locally, across jurisdictions, and internationally," said Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) Office acting Director Dawn Doran. "The 15 years since its enactment have been a period of growth and progress, with a stronger network of programs in place to serve areas, such as Indian Country, once regarded as havens for those fleeing the law and greater citizen access to information from public registries across the country."

"There's no doubt that The Adam Walsh Act has made this country a safer place for our children," said John Clark, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "When this landmark legislation was passed 15 years ago, I was the Director of the U.S. Marshals Service and will always be proud to have been a part of spearheading the strategy behind the Adam Walsh Act. Today, it's surreal to now serve as the head of our nation's leading child safety organization where we see the enormous impact of the Act. On this milestone anniversary, I hope everyone takes the time to reflect on Adam’s legacy."

"My family and I are honored that this law, named after my son, has made such a tremendous impact,” said John Walsh. “I want to say thank you to everyone involved. Thank you for all the hard work you do every day to make our country safer."

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at


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