In 2008, the State Legislature passed protections to help stop sex offenders from victimizing children on the internet. Statistics out last month estimate that, since its passage, more than 24,000 internet accounts have been disabled due to this measure. The Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators, or eSTOP, has helped keep sex offenders off-line and away from children.
eStop is an effective law and I’m glad our state has this in place. Registered sex offenders are required to register and keep up-to-date all current email accounts, screen names and any other internet identifiers with the Division of Criminal Justice Services. This list is then given to more than two dozen social networking companies on a weekly basis and those sites use it to purge offenders.
I’m glad to hear this law is working. It makes the internet safer for children and because it has proven effective, lawmakers in other states are proposing similar measures. Our state is being held up as an example of a leader in Internet Safety. Last year, a lawmaker from Oklahoma held up New York’s successful law as an example of what their state government should implement. Getting registered sex offenders off of social networking sites and away from children is a loophole many states have found they need to close.
As social networking sites change and access to information becomes easier, it’s also easier for sex offenders to have access to children. Paying close attention to any sudden changes in behavior and having honest conversations with children can help them in many ways. Some sex offenders gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness and even gifts. These individuals will often devote time, money and energy toward this process. They listen to and empathize with problems of children. They are aware of the latest music, hobbies and interests of children. They also try to slowly introduce sexual context and content into conversations. There are some useful tips the FBI recommends in their handbook called “A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety.” The entire publication can be found at http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guide/parent-guide. I recommend anyone who has school-age children to read this and try to keep up with technology.
This month, thousands of communities across the country will hold events as part of the fifth annual Take 25 national child safety campaign. The effort was created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to encourage families to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about safety and abduction prevention. A website for the campaign, Take 25, lists 25 safety tips for parents that can help save a child’s life. The campaign begins May 1 and continues through National Missing Children’s Day on May 25. Conversation starters in both English and Spanish can be found on the site, as well as tips on how to protect them from internet predators and neighbors who might be registered sex offenders. Also, anyone can sign up to receive Amber Alerts. These bulletins are issued when police have received a report of child abduction. Law enforcement issues the bulletin and registered users receive text messages on their phones or on Facebook. The more people who know of an abduction, the more likely it is that the criminal will be caught. To date, more than 500 Amber Alerts have helped locate abducted children. To register to receive Amber Alerts, visit www.wirelessamberalerts.org or www.facebook.com/amberalert.
For those wishing to learn more or to register to receive notices of sex offenders via email, you also may visit Parents For Megan's Law, Inc. at their Web site. This is a victims’ rights organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse through the “provision of education, advocacy, counseling, victim services, policy and legislative support services.” Meghan’s Law established the sex offender registry in New York. The not-for-profit organization is also a New York State Certified Rape Crisis Center and provides a 24-Hour Local Hotline, 1-888-ASK- PFML (1-888-275-7365).
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.