Child abuse robs children of their childhood. Sadly, it comes in many forms and despite the best efforts of law enforcement, the problem is not going away.
In fact, predators find new ways to seek out children to harm, frequently turning to the anonymity of the Internet.
The Internet has it easier for those who prey on children but not for the law enforcement agencies charged with stopping these crimes.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there was 2062 percent increase in child exploitation investigations conducted by the FBI between 1996 and 2004.
Wisconsin’s own Department of Justice coordinates the state’s participation in the federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program. Nationwide, law enforcement agencies participating in this program have arrested nearly 17,000 offenders since 1998. In Wisconsin alone, law enforcement agencies that work with this program have arrested 800 offenders since 2005.
This session, I am working with Rep. Rob Swearingen on legislation to protect children from Internet predators. Our bills, Senate Bill 226 and Assembly Bill 212 would allow law enforcement to seize vehicles used to entice children.
The assembly version of the bill was approved by the state assembly in June. The senate bill was voted out of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Public Safety and Veterans and Military Affairs in late September.
Under current law, vehicles may be subject to seizure and forfeiture if they were involved in the commission of certain crimes. Examples of these crimes include transporting a weapon that aided in the commission of a felony, impersonating an enforcement officer, prostitution and
violating a restraining order or injunction. Vehicles may also be seized if they were involved in a stalking offense and instances of child abuse.
Senate Bill 226 adds the crime of child enticement to the list of those crimes where vehicles are subject to the forfeiture law.
According to state statute, child enticement is when an adult intentionally causes a child under the age of 18 years to go into a vehicle, building, room or other secluded place in order to sexually assault, physically or mentally harm the child or give or sell a child a controlled substance, like drugs or alcohol.
This addition will provide
law enforcement officials the opportunity to confiscate vehicles if they have probable cause to believe the vehicle was involved in an instance of child enticement.
This change is needed to reflect the unfortunate fact that sexual predators employ many means to entice and manipulate children. Increasingly, these predators have been using the Internet to find potential victims. Some are particularly aggressive as they will travel to the location of the child in order to establish harmful physical contact with that child. They also will often lure the child into a vehicle to transport them to secondary locations.
As a parent, uncle, grandparent, as well as the chairman of the Senate
Committee on Education, I take the safety of all children very seriously. This legislation will provide law enforcement with an added tool with which to address cases of child enticement and help keep our children safe.
The bill does not require law enforcement seize vehicles, but would give them that option. Our legislation is one simple piece of a much larger and more complicated puzzle.