Astoria Elected Officials Create Legislation to Protect Children from Predators
Following a resolution proposed by City Council Member Peter F. Vallone, Jr., Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas introduced a bill to increase penalties for predators who forcibly touch children with the purpose of sexual gratification. The elected officials collaborated to create the legislation after a disturbing incident at an Astoria public library in which an unknown man approached a 7-year-old girl, grabbed her feet, and rubbed them against his face in a sexual manner.
The bill, S.5876/A.8558, establishes the crime of “forcible touching of a child” less than 13 years of age as a Class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison. This measure expands the current definition of “forcible touching” – currently a misdemeanor crime regardless of the victim’s age – to impose harsher punishments on criminals who target children.
In addition, Vallone has begun work on several measures aimed at preventing such incidents from happening again. He has worked with the Queens Public Library and local activists to bring a program to the library system that would teach children how to handle potential predators and how to react if they are attacked. Vallone has also secured funds for security cameras to be installed in the library where this incident occurred.
Vallone said, “As a father this case was especially disturbing. Why was this pervert allowed in that room, why are there no cameras, and why, when we catch this creep, is he only facing a misdemeanor?”
Gianaris said, "Above all else, our laws should ensure that children are protected from deviant predators who seek to do them harm. Current laws are far too lenient in penalizing these sex offenders. This proposal will make sure that the punishment for improperly touching a child will better fit the crime."
Simotas said, "It is disturbing to learn that a child was victimized in a public library - a place intended to be a safe, comfortable learning environment. Those who prey on children are the worst kinds of criminals, and our laws should treat them as such.”