April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and it is hard not to be aware of the horrible crimes inflicted on our children if you watch the latest media reports.
For example, an Albany man was recently arrested for attempting to purchase a young girl to use as a sex slave in a child-pornography sting. Also in the sting, another defendant was arrested for possession of child pornography.
Recently, parents in Hoosick Falls discovered they had been living next door to a sex offender for the past two months. The Rensselaer County Sheriff told the parents that unless the sex offender lived within 200 feet from a school or daycare, notification was not needed. This did not comfort them. A father in the Ballston Spa area recently discovered seven sex offenders living in and near his neighborhood. He, too, was unaware of it until recently.
These stories are extremely disturbing and the New York State Senate is working hard to change laws to deter this behavior and be tougher on those who break the law. The Senate recently passed legislation that would strengthen New York’s Megan’s Law by making it more difficult for dangerous sex offenders to escape detection in the community. Megan’s Law is named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka, a New Jersey girl who was raped and killed in 1994 by a paroled sex offender that had secretly moved into her neighborhood.
The new measure, contained in the just-adopted State Budget, requires the highest-risk sex offenders -- those classified as Level 3 offenders -- to update their photos on the Megan’s Law Registry each year. The updated photo will be posted to the state’s online sex offender registry, which is available at www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/index.htm. Lower-risk offenders would also be required to provide regular photo updates to authorities, once every three years.
There are currently 19,665 registered sex offenders living in New York State -- 5,309 of whom have been classified as Level 3 offenders, those posing the greatest risk, and are required under Megan’s Law to register for life.
The Senate also recently passed a comprehensive package of legislation to combat child sex crimes that would increase criminal penalties, increase the statute of limitations for the prosecution of a sex offense or incest, and prohibit sexual offenders placed on conditional release or parole from entering school grounds or other similar facilities.
Under current law, a person convicted of certain sexual offenses, where the victim was under the age of 18, is prohibited from knowingly entering school grounds. Senate bill S.479 would prohibit all sexual offenders, regardless of the age of their victims, from entering school grounds. This bill would also provide that no registered sex offenders are allowed to live or enter within 1,000 feet of any school grounds.
The Senate also passed bill S.480 that would increase the criminal penalties for sexual offenses against a minor when those offenses are committed by a person in a position of trust, such as a teacher, day-care provider, or a coach. This proposed legislation would extend the statute of limitations to prosecute sex crimes against children from ages 5 to 15, after the victim has reached age 18.
Presently, there is a loophole in the law that allows any additional sentencing for new offenses occurring during a probationary period to be served concurrently with the original terms of the offender's sentence. Therefore, a violation of that probationary period would go unpunished, saving the offender from the maximum allowable penalty. The Senate passed legislation that would change the penal code to provide only consecutive sentencing for convicted sex offenders who commit new violations while on probation.
Senate bill S.932 would increase the penalties for using a child in a sexual performance and promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child, and would also impose consecutive sentences on child pornographers.
As many child protective and health care workers have said to me, it shouldn't hurt to be a child. We must not tolerate these evil acts against the young. In the 2003-04 Legislative Session, the Senate Majority Task Force on Children's Health and Safety was established and its mission is to make New York State a healthier and safer place for children to live. The members, including myself, are dedicated to protecting children and have sponsored legislation to support the Task Force's mission. Visit my website at www.senatorfarley.com and click on the link "Senator Farley and New York State Senate Focus on Children's Health and Safety" to learn about the issues the Task Force is studying.