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Cooper seeks tougher laws against child predators

Release date: 12/18/2006

Raleigh: North Carolina needs stronger laws and new investigative tools to stop sex offenders who prey on children, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.

“Sex offenders have grown bolder because they think they can hide behind their computer screens,” said Cooper. “Our investigators are already online, tracking down these criminals but they need tougher penalties and better tools to protect our kids from predators.”

Cooper is asking legislators to adopt tougher penalties and updated detection tools during the upcoming legislative session, including longer sentences for child pornographers and for those who try to meet children for sex after soliciting them online. Cooper also wants to expand the definition of child pornography under North Carolina law to match a stricter federal standard and to require computer and photo technicians to report child pornography to local law enforcement.

“Criminals who buy and sell child pornography often turn out to be predators who also molest children,” Cooper said. “Catching them early can prevent assaults on children, or identify suspects who have already preyed on young victims. We have to stop those who exploit children and then share images of their misery, sometimes for profit,”

In recent testimony before Congress, the director of the Sex Offender Treatment Program at Butner’s federal prison said that 85 percent of child pornographers in the program also admitted to sexually abusing children.

To help law enforcement, Cooper also wants legislators to make lying to a State Bureau of Investigation agent a felony. Investigators with Cooper’s Computer Crimes Unit believe the additional charge would help them convict child pornographers and locate children who are being exploited. Cooper also wants to give state prosecutors the authority to use an investigative grand jury to uncover and prosecute child sexual exploitation.

Already Cooper is launching a new Sex Offender Registry, which will allow users to pinpoint sex offenders in their neighborhoods through online mapping and an e-mail alert system. Cooper is also asking legislators to add agents to the SBI’s computer unit and the SBI Crime Lab to help local law enforcement track predators who use the Internet to lure children.

Cooper’s office previously gathered experts to develop Internet safety tools for parents and teachers. These resource guides for parents and teachers, entitled “Internet Safety: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Child,” are available at He is also leading a group of attorneys general who are pushing changes to MySpace, a social networking website with millions of users, that would limit predators’ access to children.

“Protecting our children from Internet predators takes tougher laws and better tools for law enforcement, but we’ve also got to make sure that kids know how to avoid danger when they go online,” said Cooper.