New Del. Legislation Would Increase Fight Against Predators - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

New Del. Legislation Would Increase Fight Against Child Predators

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(Photo: CBS) (Photo: CBS)

DOVER, Del.- Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, and a bipartisan group of state legislators led by Kids Caucus co-chairs Rep. Debra Heffernan and Sen. Harris McDowell, unveiled legislation Tuesday that they say will strengthen law enforcement's ability to stop sexual predators from hurting children.

Officials said the bill, which will be pre-filed in the House of Representatives on Thursday, builds on the work done by the Child Predator Task Force over the past seven years to track down and arrest sexual predators.

Officials said that since 2007, the task force's work has led to the conviction of more than 180 predators and the rescue of 119 children who were being abused or being groomed for future victimization. The task force has increasingly focused on conducting undercover online investigations to finding predators lurking online looking to meet children, officials noted. They said the legislation ensures that predators caught in these undercover investigations face appropriate charges and 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.

"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."

In addition to Rep. Heffernan and Sen. McDowell, 22 lawmakers have already signed onto the legislation, including Sen. Bryan Townsend and Rep. Deborah Hudson, who are co-prime sponsors.

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