October 23rd, 2012
Back in August, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeny appeared on the O’Reilly Factor to discuss Jessica’s Law. On the program, Sweeney, who proposed a bill in 2004 to put GPS tracking systems on sexual predators, told Bill O’Reilly that New Jersey would pass Jessica’s Law before the end of the year. Senator Sweeney stated, “I believe in this [Jessica’s Law]. I’m the sponsor of the bill. And as the Senate President I’m going to get it passed.” Senator Sweeny went on to say that he hoped the full committee would take action on the bill by October.
On September 20th, Sweeny’s words were backed up when the Jessica Lunsford Act moved out of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with a 5-0 ‘yes’ vote. The bill, S642/S380, proposes a mandatory term of 25 years to life for aggravated sexual assault against a child under the age of 13. The guilty party must serve 25 years of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole. The bill also proposes increased penalties for harboring certain sex offenders, classifying this as a fourth degree crime subject to a minimum of six months in prison.
One week after Jessica’s Law unanimously moved out of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, the Assembly version of the bill saw some movement. The Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously passed bill A-2027, the Assembly bill concerning the Jessica Lunsford Act. The bill mandates that a person who is found guilty of aggravated sexual assault on a child under the age of 13, is guilty of a first degree crime. Mandatory sentencing would be between 25 years and life in prison, and those convicted would have to serve 25 years before being eligible for parole.
Then, in the first week of October, the Senate passed the same version that the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee passed. As the Senate version headed to the Assembly, one major difference between bills became clear – penalties for harboring certain sex offenders. The question now: how would the Assembly handle the Senate version?
It appears Speaker Sheila Oliver will not let the bill proceed in the lower chamber with increased penalties for harboring certain sex offenders. There is talk that the Assembly may pass a different version of Jessica’s Law, but it is looking less likely that the two chambers will agree to pass identical versions of the bill, which means the legislation would die before going to Governor Christie’s desk (who supports the bill).
The fate of Jessica’s Law in New Jersey now hinges on political posturing.
Please help us pass the Senate version of the Jessica Lunsford Act by contacting Speaker Sheila Oliver at (973) 395-1166. Tell her too much is on the line for Jessica’s Law to be used as a political bargaining chip.
Let’s make New Jersey the 47th state with Jessica’s Law!
September 5th, 2012
With the start of the school year upon us, it is important to review several tips to help keep kids safe.
One of the growing concerns and problems facing students is bullying. Bullying, taunting and teasing are hazards that kids must deal with every day at even the best schools in America.
According to a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development research study, 30% of middle and high school students say they’ve been bullied and one out of nine high school students reported they had been pushed, shoved, tripped or spit upon during the last school year.
The following tips, from FindLaw.com, provide valuable insight for keeping children safe at school:
* Talk to your kids about school safety. Talk about bullying and make sure your child understands what is and is not acceptable behavior. Also discuss when and how to report bullying.
* Go to the bus stop. If your schedule allows, go to the bus stop with your child and get to know the other kids and parents, along with the bus driver.
* Get to know your kids’ teachers. Send your child’s teacher an email to introduce yourself and regularly check in on your child’s academic and social progress. Learn how his or her teacher approaches bullying and other issues that may distract from the school’s learning environment, such as the use of cell phones and iPods.
* Read the school’s policy on bullying. Become familiar with school policies about bullying – particularly the protocols for identifying and reporting bullying behavior. Pay careful attention to policies regarding cyberbullying, which can take place outside of school.
* Watch and listen for the cues. Many kids don’t want to reveal to their parents that they’re being bullied, taunted or teased by other kids. If your child is withdrawn, not doing homework, sick more often than normal or demonstrating other out-of-the-ordinary behavior, talk about what seems to be bothering him or her.
* Know where your kids are at. Sometimes bullying and other unsafe situations take place outside of school grounds, such as at other students’ houses. Telling your kids that you want to know where they are and that they need permission to visit a friend’s house shows them you care. It also reassures them that they can contact you if they need help.
* Monitor Internet use and texting. Put the home computer in a public place and don’t allow your kids to use a computer in their bedroom by themselves.
For more tips, visit: http://cumberlink.com/momlink/parenting/keeping-your-kids-safe-at-school/article_da700c72-f1cf-11e1-b529-0019bb2963f4.html
August 16th, 2012
On August 2nd, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed three new bills into law to better protect New Yorkers from sex offenders. Governor Cuomo said the reforms would ensure offenders are more carefully tracked, and in turn, keep our at-risk population safe.
The bills are as follows:
1. The first bill, which takes effect in the beginning of September, calls for updated photographs of high-risk sexual offenders (Level III) in the registry every 90 days or if the offender’s appearance changes. The photos will be sent to the sex offender registry, which can be viewed publicly online. Currently, high-risk offenders must submit a photograph once a year. There are 8,452 Level III sex offenders in the state.
2. The second bill, which also takes effect in early September, will require the state Board of Parole to share with the state Office of Mental Health and the state Attorney General’s Office a record and transcript of the release interviews for detained sex offenders to determine whether they should seek civil confinement for the offender.
3. The third bill will require the state Education Department to notify law-enforcement officials when they are investigating a complaint of sexual misconduct against a licensed health-care provider. The bill takes effect immediately.
Considering the state has more than 34,000 registered sex offenders, we applaud New York State lawmakers and Governor Cuomo with taking additional steps to track their movements. But ultimately, the intent misses the mark without tough penalties also in place. Also, according to the description of one of the bills, high-risk offenders will be required to submit new photos every 90 days if their appearance changes. But why would a high-risk offender, especially a sex offender who preys on children, be let out of jail and free to roam the streets?
Level III offenders (or high-risk offenders) are individuals with the greatest risk of repeating their offenses and a threat to public safety exists, according to New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. Why would anyone think that updating a profile picture in a database will prevent Level III offenders from striking again? Simply put: high-risk offenders and child predators need to be behind bars.
New York should look to their southern neighbor when it comes to sex offender laws. With New Jersey poised to pass Jessica’s Law, hopefully New York will follow suit. Requiring a minimum of 25 years to life for sex offenders who commit sex crimes against children is the only way to protect our most vulnerable.
August 2nd, 2012
After seven years of delay and derailment, it looks like New Jersey is finally doing the right thing. A child rapist may no longer be out of prison in ten years or less. Child predators that prey on our most innocent population will not be able to escape long-term incarceration. New Jersey lawmakers are poised to pass Jessica’s Law before the end of this year’s legislative session.
Last night New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney appeared on the O’Reilly Factor to discuss the state’s shortcomings in passing Jessica’s Law. Sweeney, who proposed a bill in 2004 to put GPS tracking systems on sexual predators, told Bill O’Reilly that New Jersey would pass Jessica’s Law before the end of the year. Senator Sweeney stated, “I believe in this [Jessica’s Law]. I’m the sponsor of the bill. And as the Senate President I’m going to get it passed.”
Mr. Sweeney continued by saying he would like to see a committee hearing on the bill sometime in September.
Once the legislation makes it out of committee and is passed in the senate, the bill must be passed in the assembly and signed by Governor Christie. Fortunately, according to O’Reilly, “the Assembly already says they’re going to do [pass] it and the Governor already says he’s going to sign it.”
We applaud Senator Sweeney for his leadership on the issue and encourage New Jersey lawmakers to take swift action on Jessica’s Law. Lawmakers should be eager to become the 44th state to pass Jessica’s Law. The state cannot afford to see political games and posturing hold up an important measure. As Bill O’Reilly adequately put it, “everybody knows it’s the right thing to do.”
To access the entire interview and transcript, click here: http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/oreilly/2012/08/02/jessicas-law-new-jersey?page=1
Named in memory of Jessica Lunsford, who was abducted and sexually assaulted before being brutally murdered, “Jessica’s Law” refers to the Jessica Lunsford Act passed in Florida which mandates a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison for first-time child sex offenders. Currently, 43 states have passed Jessica’s Law.
June 21st, 2012
Last month, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that viewing child pornography online is not a crime. The decision came after Marist College professor James D. Kent was sentenced to prison after more than 100 images of child pornography were found on his computer’s cache. Each time someone views a photo online, a copy of the image is automatically saved in the memory cache.
The court’s ruling created a distinction between individuals who view an image of child pornography online against those who actively download and store such images. And in this case, it was ruled that a computer’s image cache is not the same as actively choosing to download and save an image. This is simply wrong.
This decision created a giant loophole for Internet pornographers: in New York, the courts have essentially said it’s legal to view child pornography as long as you don’t download it.
Thankfully Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced an agreement this week on legislation that will more effectively prohibit Internet access of child pornography. If enacted, an individual who purposefully accesses a website intending to view child pornography will be committing a class E felony. As a result of this legislation, child pornography can never be legally possessed in New York State.
We applaud Governor Cuomo, Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver for working swiftly to close a disturbing loophole in New York’s child pornography law. This law makes clear that there is no acceptable reason for anyone to view or possess child pornography. We call on all members in the legislature to pass this bill before the end of this legislative session in order to protect innocent children.
June 5th, 2012
Over the last few years, we’ve seen examples of companies getting it wrong when it comes to consumer safety, especially as it relates to children. Google, Craigslist and even Match.com have all been in the news for lackadaisical policies regarding child privacy and safety.
As technology evolves, the way in which predators prey on children evolves
with it. And with more and more kids and teens using cell phones these days, it’s no surprise attempts are being made to contact them at every turn. Cell phone technology is remarkable as compared to only five years ago (think iPhone vs. a standard cell phone at the time). Most phones today have Internet capability, advanced applications and high definition video recording equipment.
Unfortunately, like most advanced technologies, people have learned how to exploit users on such devices, and cell phones are no different. Technology makes it easier to do and say things we might not do in person, which is why cases of cyber harassment are at an all- time high. Child predators randomly text unsuspecting teens in an attempt to groom their next victim, and bullies use cell phones to insult and harass their peers, without much fear of consequence. Simple firewalls and safety nets are no longer sufficient from protecting children from these dangers.
Thanks to a new caller-ID function, however, parents can feel better about giving their children cell phones. We had the opportunity to talk to the founder of Prologue’s AngelGuard™ service, which represents a game-changing advance in telephone privacy and security. By basing it upon a patented FollowME-ID™ technology instead of the outdated and easy circumvented Caller-ID, AngelGuard™ will provide parents with an unparalleled degree of control over the people with whom their children communicate by mobile phone.
Prologue’s patented caller identification system is a vast improvement for privacy and security services reliant upon the decades-old Caller-ID technology for several reasons:
1) Identifies the call initiator, not the instrument being used (voice recognition). An unwanted caller will not get through regardless of the phone they’re using.
2) Compatible with a range of identification systems, even those still in development.
3) Provides a complete list of authorized callers instead of a partial list of blocked telephones, a “positive” list in that it contains the identities of callers who will be accepted.
4) Whether or not a specific caller can get through can be managed according to the time and day the call is received.
While FollowME-ID™ is a brand-new technology and still needs to be rolled out to consumers, it appears to be effective at protecting kids from whose who wish to do them harm.The best feature is that parents are in control of who their kids talk to and when they do so, whether the calls are incoming or outgoing. And that should provide some relief to parents, especially now that school’s out and teens have more free time on their hands.
In a world where technologies are constantly evolving, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve, especially when child safety is on the line. And thankfully, companies like Angel-Guard are working to improve safety measures for our most vulnerable population.
For more information about emerging technologies and keeping your children safe online, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
The Stop Child Predators Team
April 23rd, 2012
Child Pornography: Help is out there
The Internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to capabilities – people can utilize the resource for positive actions while others have learned to manipulate and exploit vulnerabilities. One of these vulnerabilities is child pornography. Sex offenders and cyber predators have used the Internet to distribute and post appalling images of innocent children.
It seems like everyday there is a new story of someone getting caught posting or distributing illicit pictures of children on the web. Both convicted sex offenders and people without any history of sex crimes are committing these acts. Federal and State governments have systems in place to track this behavior, but it is not full proof. Too often people that upload and share child pornography on the Internet are caught because of a tip or by luck.
A concerned parent from Maryland recently contacted SCP worrying that her ex-husband may have viewed child pornography. This person was interested in finding information to deal with the problem. Fortunately Maryland, like most states, has resources for people that find themselves in this situation. Websites like the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center provides visitors with victim services, crisis assistance, legal help, victim notification, financial help, social services, national victim resources and more. For anyone who finds him or herself in this dilemma, we recommend that you reference your respective state’s victim’s resource center. Protocols vary state-by-state and it is important to take the appropriate steps depending on where you reside.
Multiple companies are also working to prevent the distribution of child pornography. Microsoft is doing its part to protect children with the company’s PhotoDNA technology, which helps find and remove some of the worst images of child sexual exploitation from the web. The software is already used by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) along with Facebook, and should be rolled out across Bing, Hotmail and Skydrive soon.
Redmond has partnered with NetClean to make PhotoDNA image matching tech available to police and law enforcement at no cost. Over 65 million images and videos of child sexual exploitation have been reviewed by the NCMEC since 2002, 10 percent of which are of infants or toddlers who can’t even speak up to protect themselves. Created in collaboration with Dartmouth College, PhotoDNA creates a signature for each image, which allows it to be compared with other image signatures to detect copies. This often leads to removal of the worst pornographic images of children that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Some states are also joining the fight to inhibit child pornography distribution on the web. Recently, several states have passed legislation increasing penalties for people that upload or disseminate child pornography on the Internet. Earlier this month, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a law increasing penalties for people who disseminate child pornography. The bill requires prison time for anyone caught with child pornography. Iowa lawmakers have also passed legislation increasing penalties for people who send or receive child pornography.
But more still needs to be done. Cyber predators are finding ways around these new technologies and sentencing requirements are not deterring enough people. Help us in this battle to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Contact your state and federal legislators and continue to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.
April 3rd, 2012
Forty-Four and Counting….
Today, 44 states have enacted a version of the Jessica Lunsford Act (“Jessica’s Law”). Jessica’s Law, initially passed in Florida in 2005, is in memory of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was abducted and sexually assaulted before being brutally murdered. As written, Jessica’s Law primarily strengthenspenalties for sex offenders, including mandatory 25-year- to-life prison sentences and lifetime electronic monitoring for offenders who are released from prison. Additional considerations include: revises sexual predator criteria; requires twice yearly reregistration by sexual predators; and provides criminal penalties for failing to reregister, failing to respond to address verification, failing to report or providing false information about sexual predators and harboring or concealing a sexual predator.
Earlier this month, the New Jersey Senate Law and Public Safety Committee advanced a bill that would make hindering the apprehension and prosecution of a sex offender attempting to evade registration and monitoring requirements under Megan’s Law a crime of the third degree with a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. The bill, S-622, is sponsored by Senator Tom Kean, Jr. (R- Union) who is an avid supporter of the Jessica Lunsford Act. It is no surprise the legislation is derived from a portion of Jessica’s law considering Senator Kean’s support for the measure in the past. We applaud Senator Kean and members of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee for taking this important step to protect kids from sex offenders.
Although it is encouraging to see the New Jersey Senate taking up a proposal to strengthen policies that make children safe, there is still more work to be done. The committee measure still needs approval from both chambers before it arrives at Governor Chris Christies’ desk. Which is why we encourage supporters of this bill to contact your legislator and ask them to vote for S-622.
It is also important to remember that the fight does not stop with New Jersey. We are battling the same fight in New York, and plan to work in Colorado, Idaho and Illinois next legislative session.
States Headed in the Right Track/Wrong Track
Yellow – States heading in the wrong direction
Purple – States heading in the right direction
Green – States that have passed Jessica’s Law
The map illustrates how far we have come while outlining the road ahead. Stop Child Predators is committed to passing all portions of Jessica’s Law in all 50 states. New Jersey is the latest partial victory in our mission, but there is still much more to be accomplished. Help us by spreading this message. Get 10 of your friends to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
March 29th, 2012
It’s great to see Congress and the federal, state and local governments taking steps to look more seriously at how our laws and policies can protect our online privacy and our children’s safety. The recent privacy framework from the FTC was an important step and today’s hearing will bring additional attention to this important issue. More, however, needs to be done and we need to see additional scrutiny of the leading companies that families are entrusting with their information, their personal searches and access to their children’s information.
March 12th, 2012
Over the past decade social media websites have brought together people, causes, companies and organizations from around the world. From Facebook to YouTube, people in any time zone can connected with each other through status updates, direct messaging and picture and video sharing. But like so many new technologies, they’re not just being used by people who want to do good; people with ill intentions have also learned to utilize new media. From credit card scams to bullying, children are especially vulnerable and can be easily targeted by sex offenders, even though most states prohibit convicted sexual predators from using Facebook and other similar sites. Not to mention that catching a child predator using social media can be more difficult than passing the necessary legislation banning such behavior.
In the past few weeks, several reported cases of sex offenders contacting minors through social media sites, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube have captured the attention of the news media. But catching a sex offender using one of these platforms is almost impossible, not that the social networks and law enforcement aren’t trying. There are few systems in place that monitor a sexual predator’s online actions. Most states require that convicted sex offenders install tracking software on their computer, however, some never do while others have found ways around it. Most of the time, sex offenders are caught using social media by mere luck. Just in the last two weeks, more than five convicted sex offenders were caught using social media sites to solicit minors. How were they caught….by anonymous tips.
Recently, new states have introduced legislation banning sex offenders from social media sites. Last week Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal endorsed a bill that would ban certain sex offenders from Facebook along with other new media sites. Governor Jindal attempted to pass a similar law last year, but a federal judge declared the bill unconstitutional.
In North Carolina, sex offenders are banned from using social media, but defining which sites are social networks is another problem. A convicted sexual predator was caught last week with an active Facebook page and YouTube account. The Facebook account has been suspended, but his YouTube account is still live. Lawmakers are working to identify which sites constitute a social media platform in order to make the Internet safer from predators.
So it’s clear that more needs to be done. More systems are needed to keep sexual predators off social networks and stronger verification protocols are needed to ensure sex offenders are installing full proof monitoring software on their computers.
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