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Protecting Kids From Online Sexual Predators

May 16, 2010

By Alli Atayee
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – It soon will be a bit safer for children in Virginia to surf the web.

The state’s fight against online sexual predators will get a boost when a new law takes effect July 1. The law will assess an additional $10 fee on each felony and misdemeanor conviction. The money will go into Virginia’s Internet Crimes Against Children Fund and will support the work of ICAC investigators.

The fund and additional fee were created by Senate Bill 620, which was passed by the General Assembly this year and signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell. The fee is expected to generate at least $1.5 million a year for the ICAC Fund, which will be administered by the Virginia State Police.

SB 620 was sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville.

“This is going to be enormous – the most important public safety bill this session by a long shot,” Deeds said. “It’s easy to say we’re going to be tough on crime, but it’s not easy to go out and find the appropriate resources.”

He has been a longtime advocate for protecting children against predators. As a state delegate, Deeds wrote Megan’s Law, which gives the public access to the state’s registry of sex offenders. He also helped create the Amber Alert program to inform the public about possible child abductions.

ICAC units have been established in Bedford and Fairfax counties. They each will receive one-third of the money from the ICAC Fund. Most of the remaining third will be available as grants to other local law-enforcement agencies that wish to start their own ICAC units.

“A third of this money will be available to grants across the state – so expect to see more arrests and more children protected,” Deeds said. “We’re putting our money where our mouths are.”

In terms of protecting children, the 2010 General Assembly did more than bolster funding for the ICAC task forces.

Legislators also passed House Bill 736, which will add state police and circuit courts to the list of agencies required to report cases of child abuse and neglect into an online database called the Virginia Child Protection Accountability System.

This will increase communication and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, said the measure’s sponsor, Delegate David Albo, R-Springfield. The law also will help officials see whether some localities fail to pursue people who prey on children.

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