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Attack child porn Volker's planned hearings offer chance to map out a response to heinous crimes

State Sen. Dale M. Volker's push for tougher penalties for child pornography crimes is welcome. Strong action is needed to curtail the computer-aided spread of sexual exploitation that destroys young lives, and New York can play a part in attacking at least part of the seamy child-porn industry.

The Child Porn Pipeline, a Buffalo News series outlining an increase of child pornography on the Internet, was the catalyst for the senator's action, and may trigger action in the Assembly as well.

News reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, investigative team leader Susan Schulman and photographer Derek Gee spent time, energy and heart delving into the issue of child pornography. Michel and Gee traveled to Russia to ferret out the roots of the problem. But the journalistic role of exposing the problem should be matched by legislative action.

Volker, who heads the Senate Codes Committee, has taken a step in that direction by proposing a public hearing on Internet child pornography, to be held in Buffalo in late January. Other hearings may be held in different parts of the state, although no decision has yet been made. The Assembly Codes Committee may also join Volker's committee for a joint Senate-Assembly hearing on Internet crimes against children.

The hope and expectation, of course, is that there will be a package of bills to address problems outlined in the series, as well as other related issues. At the top of the list should be the issue of how federal courts dole out sentences of up to 10 years for even looking at child pornography, while state courts oftentimes let violators off with probation. Volker and other legislators should seize the opportunity to discuss the issue and develop steps to erase the inequality.

It's an ugly truth that child pornography, in some form or fashion, has been around from the earliest times. But there should be more effective ways to properly and judiciously punish anyone who exploits children. The Legislature's exploration is a chance to develop them.

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