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COLUMN: Laws created more child sex abuse crimes, still more needs to change

— 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 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 three out of four adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.

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