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Assembly needs to act on long-standing sex crimes bill

The Buffalo News' recent series on child pornography exposed the dangers that our children face from sexual predators who use a computer to carry out their heinous crimes. It is very clear that we must do more to protect our children from cyber scum.

That is why I find it very frustrating that Assembly Bill A3202-SCHROEDER, the Computer Sex Crimes Act, still sits in committee more than a year after it was first introduced.

The legislation would significantly increase the punishment for sex crimes against a child if a computer was used in the offense. It would also make it easier for law enforcement officials to obtain warrants for audio and video surveillance of dangerous predators.

Whether they are producing or distributing child porn or using the Internet to lure young victims, the computer is the favorite weapon of child molesters. This law would throw the book at these dangerous criminals.

The current sentencing for sex offenders is clearly insufficient, especially considering that studies show they are more likely than most other criminals to repeat their crimes.

When I found out that an admitted pedophile living in my Assembly district was convicted of raping a 12-year-old boy and ended up serving less than five years in prison, I decided to compile a list of all of the level-three sex offenders, the most dangerous classification, who live in my district.

What I found was startling. The vast majority of these offenders were convicted of rape and sodomy, and most of their victims were children, many of them very young. Of the nearly 50 level-three sex offenders living in the district, the average sentence was a paltry three to six years in prison.

This bill, which originated in then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office, would toughen sentencing and put sexual predators behind bars -- and away from kids -- for longer than they are now.

The Buffalo News urged the passage of the Computer Sex Crimes Act in an editorial last November -- "Get tough on predators."

"It's just common sense -- plain old moral, grown-up common sense. Yet the knee-jerkers in the Assembly couldn't bring themselves to embrace this measure," The News observed in the editorial, which was later picked up by a newspaper on the other side of the state, the Troy Record.

The Erie County Legislature, the City of Buffalo Common Council, the town boards of West Seneca, Orchard Park, Cheektowaga, Boston and Holland, and the town and village boards of Lancaster have all passed resolutions supporting the bill.

Yet it still sits in the Assembly's Codes Committee.

The Assembly needs to stop standing in the way of a reform that is long overdue and make this bill a law before the end of this year.

Mark J.F. Schroeder of Buffalo represents the 145th District in the New York State Assembly.

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