Protect the Children From Grandstanding D.A.'s

Ed: If Kamala Harris took her mandate as San Francisco D.A. more seriously by, amongst other things, prosecuting actual murderers more effectively, she might have greater credibility in her other pursuits. In this matter, however, she is jumping on the "Bogeyman Bandwagon", essentially appealing to the ignorance of the California electorate, by championing a cause for which there is virtually NO demonstrated, ACTUAL, threat. If you were to pour over crime and child well being statistics, as I do, you would see that realistic dangers to children do not come into their computers when they are least suspecting.

They come from myriad, albeit substantially more pedestrian, sources, such as traffic accidents, head injuries from sports, emotional and physcial abuse having nothing to do with sex, prescriptions for Ritalin and other behavior-modifiers, armed gangsters down the street, no health coverage, etc., etc.
Political opportunists such as Kamala Harris are beginning to be taken less seriously by a more informed electorate. Finally. We need to stop salivating on command when they begin to shout "save the children from these predators". And we need to do what we have to do to hasten them along their paths to political oblivion and not elect them to Attorney General of California, which is Kamala's ambition.

Opinion: Protect children from online predators
By Kamala D. Harris and Norma Torres

In 1994, Megan Kanka's parents thought their 7-year-old daughter was safe. After all, they were raising her in a quiet New Jersey town.

Her parents, Richard and Maureen, could have never predicted that on July 29, 1994, the neighbor living across the street — who was, without their knowledge, a registered sex offender — would lure Megan Kanka into his home, where he would sexually assault and murder her.

In the wake of this horrific crime, it became clear that the laws were not strong enough to protect our children from registered sex offenders. In 1996, Megan's Law was enacted, requiring every state in the country to notify the public when sex offenders are residing in their area.

The time has come again for us to band together. We must protect our kids from registered sex offenders trying to "friend" them online. That is why we joined forces to introduce the Child Cyber Safety Act of 2010. This legislation would make it a crime for registered sex offenders in California to use a social networking Internet site. Period. If they do, they go back to jail.

Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo are incredibly popular. Since 2007, the number of users has doubled. Social networking sites provide a new venue for sex offenders to establish relationships with children they will later assault.

Children no longer just play in their front yard, local playground or schoolyard?. Today's kids play online. And sex offenders know it.

In November 2009, 12-year-old Jane Doe's parents thought she was safe. Instead, their daughter met a 33-year-old man on MySpace who lured their child to an Anaheim hotel and sexually assaulted her. That same year, the parents of 14-year-old John Doe of Pomona did not realize that their son was in danger online. Instead, their son met a 47-year-old man online who later pleaded guilty to sodomizing him.

And the parents of more than 80 victims in Riverside from ages 11 to 17 did not know that a 32-year-old man was using a social networking site to manipulate their children into sending him nude photographs of themselves.

As the law is currently written, the defendants in these cases, if convicted, will be required to register as sex offenders in California. However, once they've served their sentences, there is nothing stopping them from jumping right back online and using social networking sites to locate new victims.

The man who murdered 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994 was similarly situated. Having served time for attacking a 5-year-old child and attempting to sexually assault a 7-year-old, nothing stopped this registered sex offender from living in anonymity, able to troll his neighborhood for child victims.

We are not interested in waiting until the next child is victimized. The Child Cyber Safety Act would make registered sex offenders trolling social networking sites a crime.

Other states such as New York and Connecticut have employed efforts to require sex offenders to register e-mail addresses with the state or notify the social networking sites of their status so those profiles can be purged. However, according to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, Internet pedophiles are becoming increasingly adept at employing counter -intelligence techniques to protect themselves. They register fake names, create multiple e-mail addresses and use technology in other ways to conceal their identity.

In California, the birthplace of the personal computer, we must stay ahead of the online predator. Let's pass the Child Cyber Safety Act to keep registered sex offenders from contacting our kids online.

KAMALA D. HARRIS is San Francisco"s district attorney and a candidate for state attorney general. NORMA TORRES (D-Paloma) represents the 61st District in the Assembly. They wrote this article for this newspaper.

1 comment:

Zot said...

I raised this point in other forums and will do so here: both bills are likely to be ruled unconstitutional on a variety of 1st amendment grounds. Why waste the state's non-existent reserves fighting a losing battle in court?

Both bills (but especially the Torres one) would also prevent a registrant from using LinkedIn, Monster (and the other job search sites) and even YouTube. Given the problems registrants already have in finding employment, raising further impediments seems like a really dumb idea (especially in the current economic environment.)

This is nothing more than election-year grandstanding. Both bills are so poorly written there are a myriad of ways to get around them. They protect no one.

I'd heartily encourage our legislators to stop wasting time on drivel such as this and work on fixing the perpetually broken budget instead.