By Assemblyman Will Barclay
We hear about cases on the news and we see mug shots of those who are charged or convicted of some heinous child sex abuse act.
There is no excuse for these perpetrators and sickens the majority of us who have to read these stories. The good thing about these news stories is that when we see them reported, we know our law enforcement is catching more of these types of perpetrators.
In recent decades, our state and federal laws have improved, and reflect our desire to better protect kids. Law enforcement is equipped to charge and better prosecute sex offenders.
There is however, more that can be done.
As technology changes, our laws also need to adapt. I signed onto legislation which will soon be introduced to the Assembly that will criminalize the use of electronic devices to sexually lure a minor.
Adult predators use computers, iPhones, and other smart phones to lure underage minors to gain their trust and pursue them sexually. Investigators often find that once they determine a device has been used to pursue a victim, it is much more likely that there are other victims out there.
This bill will enable the police to obtain a search warrant to determine if in fact there are other victims out there. Once they establish this evidence, the perpetrator can then be charged with multiple crimes.
Law enforcement officials say the majority of predators caught are not first-time offenders.
According to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services site, in 2009, there were 2,091 cases of documented abuse in Oswego County. In Jefferson County, there were 1,776 cases and in Onondaga County, there were 5,271 cases. Experts say many more of these types of cases go unreported.
It is important that we keep drawing attention to this topic, as in many cases, the abuse is pervasive and, unfortunately, committed by trusted friends or family. According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, as many as 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.
Studies suggest that in recent years, people are more likely to report abuse.
This is part in thanks to society being more aware of these crimes. I have urged the Governor, along with my Assembly colleagues, to declare April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in New York State. These declarations remind us that there are still young victims who need help and protection.
I want to remind you that if you see abuse or suspect it, you may call 1-800-342-3720, a hotline managed by New York State Office of Children and Family Services.
I have also signed onto legislation that requires when a call made to the Statewide Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment is made by a mandated reporter who works in a hospital (such as a physician, registered nurse, physician’s assistant, social worker, psychologist or other hospital personnel working with a patient) or by a law enforcement official – such calls shall not be screened.
Rather, they would immediately be made into a report of abuse and transmitted to the appropriate local social services district for investigation.
Currently, mandatory reporters are required to also dial the above 1-800 number and report suspected abuse.
The State Central Registry screens these calls; however, this bill would eliminate the state’s screening process for the aforementioned callers and refer suspected abuse to the local authorities immediately. From there, an investigation is supposed to be launched.
This bill has a long history and has passed the Senate several times, but has died in the Assembly Committee of Children and Families. It is unclear to me why the Assembly Democrat Majority refuses to put this bill to a vote. I am hopeful this bill can pass both houses and be signed into law this year.
In many of these cases, fast action is required and eliminating a state screening process will allow the local authorities to receive reports sooner and, presumably, act faster.
The bill would also establish better protocols among mandated reporters, medical, and law enforcement who respond to reports of abuse. If we can improve protocols, we can better ensure more children’s safety and prevent further abuse and even tragedy.
Another bill I’ve signed on to would require the sex offender registry maintain up-to-date information and list all sexual offenses for which the offender has been convicted. The Sex Offender Registry is a good tool the public can use to determine where sex offenders live.
However, while the current registry holds much valuable information on sex offenders, it does not always include all sexual offenses.
Currently, the registry only lists their most recent offense.
For example, if a person was convicted of third degree sexual abuse and first degree rape in two separate incidences, only the most recent crime would appear in the registry and the public would have no way to know about the prior rape conviction.
This bill would make it so all prior convictions, which require registration in the sex offender registry, be listed in the registry.
The laws we have in place do work to protect our children, but as I said earlier, our laws need to adapt to technology and create protocols that help even more kids by using the resources we have in place.
I’m hopeful that some of these changes can be made this legislative session.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.
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