Saturday, January 19, 2008

Internet Predators Are Now Prey To Florida Law Enforcement

Predator campaign top priority for Fla.

Originally posted on January 05, 2008
Here are some features of the state's new Cyber Crimes Against Children law:
• 15-year maximum sentence for contacting a child online and attempting to meet the child for sexual purposes
• Increases from five to 15 years the prison term for possession of more than 10 images of child pornography, and from 15 to 30 years for promotion and distribution of such materials
• New penalties for offenders who misrepresent their ages online
• Requires sex offenders to register all e-mail addresses and instant-message names they use, so social-network sites can block them

The Internet is a marvel for young people, with the potential for vastly enhancing their education and general mental fitness — but it's a jungle out there in cyberspace.

Young people online are terribly vulnerable to sexual predators. They must be aggressively educated about the dangers, and monitored by savvy, vigilant parents (and teachers and librarians, too).

The other half of the campaign is law enforcement, and in that regard we are happy to see that Florida has torqued up its efforts to catch and punish these villains.

At the urging of Attorney General Bill McCollum, the 2007 Legislature increased his cyber-predator unit from six to 56 positions and opened new offices in several cities.

It's going to be very important to see that the funding isn't rescinded in the impending state budget crunch. The cyber-pervert campaign is one of those core public safety government functions that has to be shielded from budget-cutting. It has to have top priority.

That's because Internet access is becoming a universal part of young people's experience in America, and because tech savvy does not necessarily equal real sophistication. Many young teens are emotionally vulnerable, innocent or foolish. It's one of several downsides to the Internet, including invasion of privacy, identity theft and and child pornography — all of which McCollum is also eager to tackle, to his great credit.

The blatant, compulsive nature of sexual predation online makes it crucial to raise the stakes. The new law, for example, provides a 15-year maximum sentence for contacting a child online and attempting to meet the child for sexual purposes.Given the tough penalties and the widespread publicity given to sting operations, one might think predators would be pulling back.

One would be very wrong.

This is going to be a permanent war over the safety of our children. At last we're starting to fight back hard.

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