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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
ArlingtonSecret Service partners with communities to protect youth

Secret Service partners with communities to protect youth

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In her day job, U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Martha Maurer works to ensure that Vice President Kamala Harris arrives safe and secure at her next destination.

But in her free time, Maurer is among Secret Service personnel working to spread the word about the agency’s collaborative efforts to keep children safe.

She and others in the agency serve as ambassadors for the Alexandria-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, providing programs in the community for adults and youth alike.

“We’re still trying to build this program. It’s relatively new,” Maurer, a U.S. Army veteran, said during a Feb. 16 presentation before the Arlington Optimist Club.

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Maurer began service as a volunteer ambassador earlier this year. “This is such an important topic,” she said.

Like others who are part of the ambassador effort, it is done on her own time, not that of the agency.

The ambassadors initiative began in 2017, but the Secret Service has had a formal relationship with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children since the 1990s, when it became the first federal agency to assign a liaison to the center’s headquarters.

Among the Secret Service’s efforts is Operation Safe Kids, which partners with community organizations creating documents with identifying information for youth ages 3-17 that can be used in case a child goes missing. The agency also provides Childhood Smart, inaugurated in 2016, which gives interactive education programs on topics of personal and Internet safety.

The cumulative effect of the programs is to provide a wider net of individuals who have information on “the signs to look for if a child is being either abused or exploited,” Maurer said.

In addition, the agency also provides services such as polygraph investigations to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Optimist Club member Tricia O’Hara, a neighbor of Maurer’s, said she was pleased to have her friend deliver the program.

“My passion is this very topic – it always has been,” said O’Hara, who voiced hopes that the Optimist Club could play an expanded role on the matter in the future.

The luncheon program, held at the Optimist Club’s traditional meeting spot of Washington Golf & Country Club, was virtually standing-room only.
“This is the fullest this room has been in almost two years – this is great,” organization president Brian Kellenberger said.

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