Full Access to NCMEC Director, Shelley Allwang

Episode 9

Full Access to NCMEC Director, Shelley Allwang
Episode Summary

It takes a network to take down a network. Shelley Allwang has been employed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) since 2005 and worked her way up from the call center to the Director of the Exploited Children Division. 

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Today on Full Access we’re discussing topics related to child sexual abuse material, also known as CSAM and child pornography. We’re addressing these topics as they pertain to law enforcement and other organizations combatting this horrific crime. We are informing you now that there is discussion of graphic content during this episode of Full Access. We hope you choose to listen and learn with us but understand if you choose not to do so. Let’s begin… 

Show Notes

[2:25] Meet Shelley Allwang, Director of the Exploited Children Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). 

  • Allwang explains what NCMEC is and that their mission is to help locate missing children, help reduce child sexual exploitation, and help prevent victimization of children 
  • Allwang talks about the structure of NCMEC, the different divisions within the organization, and how they work with law enforcement agencies 
  • Allwang speaks to the hosts and listeners about Team Adam and Project Alert  

[8:12] Garner prompts Allwang to tell us more about what the Exploited Children Division (ECD) does at NCMEC. 

  • Allwang states that the ECD responds to information they receive regarding any instance of child sexual exploitation, she also explains where that information comes from and the types of information they receive 
  • Allwang discusses how the ECD works with other companies and nonprofits to try to reduce child sexual abuse material (CSAM) from being distributed online 
  • Garner calls out NCMEC’s work to grow a program over time to help take images down and reduce chances of revictimization 


[12:44] Cleveland asks Allwang to discuss her role with the Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP). 

  • Allwang begins her journey with CVIP in 2007 and has worked with the program for the last 15 years 
  • CVIP reviews the images and videos that are the CSAM being received by NCMEC with a primary mission of identifying material they’ve never seen before and hopefully locate the area where the child is being abused and help them 
  • Allwang explains that CVIP serves as the clearing house domestically for information on identified children 

[15:13] Cleveland asks Allwang to take listeners through the process and timeline of a CVIP case. 

  • Allwang explains that when information is submitted to the Child Victim Identification Program through NCMEC, analysts on her team go through the material 
  • Garner recalls receiving calls from CVIP while working at the GBI that resulted in rescuing children 
  • Garner calls out how vital the work the CVIP team does is to local law enforcement 

[18:43] Listeners are introduced to the people who work in CVIP. 

  • Allwang describes her staff as “dedicated, motivated, and passionate individuals who come to work every single day because they want to help children.” 
  • Allwang also says that the teammates and professionals she works with every day are what keeps her in her role 

[19:31] Garner directs the conversation towards cyber tips. 

  • Allwang explains that a cyber tip line report is a report that’s received through the cyber tip line related to online child sexual exploitation 
  • Cyber tip reports come from members of industry or electronic service provides/ sometimes the public 
  • Allwang goes on to discuss the other incident types that are reported to them via cyber tips as well (there are eight categories) 

[22:30] Garner and Allwang discuss the self-generated imagery issue that NCMEC has identified an uptick in. 

  • Self-generated imagery is youth produced imagery / online enticed material 
  • Allwang says there are a lot of things we can do to try and prevent this such as educating children and educating the community, parents, and families about online safety 
  • Allwang notes that, unfortunately, with self-generated imagery she’s seen extremely difficult case information come out of it and provides an example 
  • Garner talks about how the most interesting cyber tips she saw were generated by the children themselves who had been manipulated into producing content and were seeking help 


[25:22] Garner calls out that there were 24.9 million cyber tips reported to NCMEC in 2021 and dives into the breakdown of those tips. 

  • Garner informs listeners that 99.7% of those cyber tips were related to CSAM 
  • Garner explains following that, the next most frequent type of tip received was the online enticement of children and child sex trafficking 
  • Allwang and Garner want the public to know how big an issue all these things are and focus the discussion on those three things and other statistics from the list 

[35:40] Cleveland asks Allwang what advice she has for parents and families. 

  • Allwang says first and foremost it’s about starting a dialogue and having a conversation with your children about online safety – use opportunities like news stories and use the resources on the NCMEC website to help with these conversations 
  • Allwang discusses the importance of parental controls and how to use them across different digital devices 
  • Allwang tells parents to ensure that their child knows they can come talk to you if they’re ever approached online and they won’t be judged or get in trouble and that you are going to help them and NCMEC will help them too 

[41:20] Garner prompts Allwang to tell listeners about some CVIP and ECD success stories. 

  • Allwang talks about working with law enforcement all over the world 
  • Allwang provides examples of recently rescued children that were found quickly  
  • Allwang also discusses cases that take longer, years, before they have enough information to identify where a child is and can rescue them (and how global identification efforts work) 

[49:01] Garner and Allwang shift the conversation towards the mental toll this type of work takes on people. 

  • Allwang notes that viewing the content that they receive at NCMEC is hard, but they have an amazing safeguard program in place  
  • Allwang echoes something Cleveland said earlier in the episode and quotes a colleague saying that “it takes a network to defeat a network” 
  • Allwang says that as hard as it is sometimes they [NCMEC] will never stop looking 

[52:00] Cleveland directs the conversation towards Allwang’s career path from college to the present. 

  • Allwang tells listeners that she attended the University of Maryland and how she learned about NCMEC during her senior year of college 
  • After graduating, Allwang spent two years in the NCMEC call center; she then moved into the EDC and CVIP and never left 
  • Allwang discusses the volume and technology changes she’s seen over the years 

[55:00] To close out the episode, Garner asks Allwang where interested listeners can find out about employment opportunities with NCMEC. 

How do I report a Tip?

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has specific programs that can intake tips directly from individuals. Tips can be made by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or through their CyberTipline.

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