House Approves Legislation Expanding Delaware’s Fight to Protect Children

Date Posted: Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Categories:  Criminal Department of Justice DOJ Press Releases

Proposal by Attorney General Biden, General Assembly’s Kids Caucus expands efforts to stop predators from hurting kids

DOVER –  Legislation that will strengthen law enforcement’s ability to stop sexual predators from hurting children won overwhelming approval Thursday in the state House of Representatives and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 256 is sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Brandywine, and Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, who are co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Kids Caucus. More than 20 other legislators have signed on as sponsors or co-sponsors.

The bill builds on the work done by the Child Predator Task Force over the past seven years to track down and arrest sexual predators. Since 2007, the task force’s work has led to the conviction of more than 180 predators and the rescue of 120 children who were being abused or being groomed for future victimization.

“The Child Predator Task Force put police and prosecutors side by side to identify and bring to justice the worst predators in society – those who want to hurt our children,” said Biden, who has also asked the legislature’s budget-writing committee to fund an additional prosecutor and investigator for the task force that he helped create shortly after taking office in 2007. “Protecting kids is my top priority and why I ran for Attorney General. This legislation will make kids safer by giving law enforcement more tools to take predators off the streets and put them where they can longer hurt children.”

The task force has increasingly focused on conducting undercover online investigations to finding predators lurking online looking to meet children. The legislation ensures that predators caught in these undercover investigations face appropriate charges and punishment.

With more and more young people using electronic devices to communicate with a broader audience, law enforcement need every tool possible to help keep our children safe and protect them from sexual predators,” said Rep. Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South. “Gone are the days of just worrying when your child goes to the park or store. They can be solicited inside the home at any hour of the day. This bill will update our code to include all electronic devices and modes of communication that sexual predator could use to sexually solicit a child and makes sure that any predator caught faces the appropriate punishment.”

Specifically, the bill makes clear that a sexual predator is guilty of sexual solicitation of a child online whether the individual is soliciting an actual child or an undercover investigator whom the predator believes to be a child. The bill also elevates the offense from a Class C to a Class B felony in cases in which the predator actually travels to meet the individual he is soliciting online, whether the subject is a child or an undercover investigator.

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