Cooper welcomes new help in fighting crime, protecting consumers
Release date: 8/3/2007
Attorney General says legislature still has work to do protecting kids from predators
Raleigh: The General Assembly agreed to major initiatives to fight crime and protect North Carolina consumers this session but left some work undone, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.
“We took great strides toward protecting North Carolina communities from crime and con artists,” Cooper said Friday. “Soon we’ll have more experts to solve crimes and a new home in the Triad to examine evidence and solve cases. Our State Bureau of Investigation will have more agents to stop drug dealers and child predators. Stronger laws will also help protect the American dream of owning a home by fighting mortgage fraud and helping homeowners steer clear of foreclosure.”
“But we need to do more, especially to protect our children from old dangers hunting them in new ways. We’ll keep urging legislators to pass strong laws against child predators and pornographers who use the Internet to prey on our kids.”
The following items championed by Cooper won approval during the recent legislative session:
• Helping the SBI fight crime and solve more cases
Cooper worked with legislators to win funding for 12 new SBI experts to analyze drugs, computers, fingerprints and other evidence at a new Triad Regional SBI Crime Lab. The Triad Lab is slated to open in 2008 to give law enforcement access to the latest technology to solve crimes.
To catch more murderers, rapists and other criminals, Cooper also won three of the four additional DNA experts he requested for the main SBI Crime Lab in Wake County, where the DNA section has more than quadrupled in size over the last few years. These new experts will work with North Carolina’s database of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, which Cooper pushed to include all felons, more than tripling the size of the NC database the SBI can search to solve cases. Searches netted more cold hits last year than in the entire first decade of the program combined, with hits to the database so far this year on pace to exceed last year’s total.
In addition, legislators approved funding for three of the eight SBI field agents Cooper requested to fight drugs and drug-related crime and two of the four SBI computer crimes agents he requested to catch child predators and other criminals.
• Protecting homeowners from unfair loans
New laws that will protect North Carolina homeowners from unfair loans and that should fight the recent increase in foreclosures won legislative approval this session. House Bill 1817 updates North Carolina’s landmark predatory lending law, which Cooper wrote as a state Senator, by creating new protections for subprime borrowers and requiring lenders to verify that a borrower will be able to repay a loan, even after the interest rate increases. House Bill 817 makes mortgage fraud a felony and gives the Attorney General’s Office, the Commissioner of Banks, the Real Estate Commission and local District Attorneys more power to investigate mortgage fraud. House Bill 1374 gives North Carolinians who are the victim of predatory mortgage loans the right to seek justice in local courts and gives consumers who are facing foreclosure more information so they can protect their rights.
• Fighting child predators and pornographers
Cooper led the fight for tougher laws against child predators including requiring parent’s permission before children can join social networking sites such as MySpace. MySpace recently confirmed that it found more than 29,000 registered sex offenders on its site. That total only includes offenders who signed up on one social networking site using their real names.
Senate Bill 132 also increased punishment for child predators and pornographers, including a new provision to increase the charge if the predator showed up at a meeting place to induce the child. It also included a new law to make lying to an SBI agent a felony, similar to a federal law for FBI agents. The measure passed the Senate unanimously but was gutted after technology industry lobbyists from Washington packed the House Judiciary II Committee to oppose the bill. Cooper plans to keep fighting in the next session for the new laws that gives parents and law enforcement these much-needed tools to protect kids, and will also keep pushing social networks to voluntarily adopt parent’s permission on their sites.
“Unfortunately some companies put profits above protecting children,” said Cooper. “Social networking sites are the new playground for predators, and parents want a choice about whether or not their kids go on these sites.”