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New law will help police nab Internet predators, says AG Cooper

Release date: 6/8/2005

Raleigh: North Carolina will be able to do a better job protecting children from Internet stalkers under a new law that passed the N.C. House today, Attorney General Roy Cooper said. Cooper has pushed to change the current law to help investigators catch predators who pursue children online.

“We know that child predators are cruising the Internet in search of their next victims,” said Cooper. “This law will encourage law enforcement officers to go online and catch these criminals before they hurt our children.”

Senate Bill 472, the Child Exploitation Prevention Act, passed the House today unanimously. Cooper’s office worked with Senator Scott Thomas and Representatives Mickey Michaux and Laura Wiley on the bill that will allow investigators to go undercover to catch more Internet predators. The bill previously earned Senate approval and now returns to the Senate for concurrence.

The new law would make it a felony for an Internet predator to solicit anyone, including an undercover officer, he or she believes to be a child. Under current law, a predator who solicits an officer posing as a minor could only be charged with a misdemeanor. The measure would also require convicted online predators to be added to the state’s Sex Offender Registry and to provide DNA samples for the state’s database of convicted offender DNA.

Incidents of child sexual exploitation reported in North Carolina continue to rise. In 2001, there were only 11 incidents reported. In 2004, 533 such incidents were reported according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

To help local law enforcement track Internet predators who try to exploit children, Cooper is also asking legislators to expand the State Bureau of Investigation’s Computer Crimes Unit that he helped create by adding four new field agents. The agents would partner with the national Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a network of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors dedicated to protecting children from online dangers. In addition, Cooper is seeking three more computer forensic experts to recover and analyze information from computers submitted as evidence to the SBI Crime Lab.

“Stronger laws and tougher law enforcement can help protect our kids online, but parents also need to get involved,” said Cooper. “By taking a few simple steps, such as using parental controls and setting household rules for Internet use, parents can help their kids take advantage of the Internet’s wonders while shutting out its dangers.”

To give North Carolina parents the tools they need to protect their children online, Cooper partnered with law enforcement and child safety experts including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to develop a video and resource guide for parents. Cooper’s office has shared those tools with local PTAs. The video and tips are also available online at www.ncdoj.com (select “Internet Safety” from the Jump To menu at the top of the page).

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