Bullock, MacDonald Push Bill to Protect Kids, Crack Down on On-Line Predators
HELENA – Attorney General Steve Bullock and Representative Margie MacDonald on Friday introduced a new measure that would strengthen the laws against using the Internet to lure children into sexual conduct and put those who seek to harm them in jail.
Bullock and MacDonald appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to introduce HB 407, which would clarify Montana statute to say that an offender who travels to meet a victim under the age of 16 or persuades a victim to travel for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct, commits the offense of sexual abuse of children.
The legislation also requires law enforcement to report any child pornography that is recovered to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). By making these materials available to the NCMEC, Montana officials can work with law enforcement from around the country to locate and rescue child victims forced to engage in the production of child pornography, as well as prosecuting those who engage in these horrific crimes.
Bullock, Montana’s top law enforcement officer, said that this measure will make great strides towards protecting kids in Montana and around the country. The Attorney General has also asked the legislature to increase staff in the Department of Justice, Computer Crime Unit (CCU).
“My top priority as Attorney General is making sure that my three kids, and all children in Montana, are safe. Whether they’re on the Internet, in a classroom or on the playground, this legislation will help protect our next generation,” Bullock said. “Montana has 250 troopers from the Highway Patrol protecting our highways, but only two state investigators providing protection on the information superhighway, the Internet.”
Rep. MacDonald, a freshman legislator from Billings and the former director of the Montana Office of Community Service, said that HB 407 will help law enforcement adjust to ever-changing technological developments.
“As technology advances, those who prey on our kids adapt with it,” MacDonald said. “This legislation gives law enforcement and prosecutors another tool to protect our kids and hold dangerous predators accountable.”
According to researchers of the Pew Internet & American Life Project (2007), 39% of girls and 24% of boys between the ages of 12 and 17 have been contacted online by a stranger, contact that many of them report made them feel scared or uncomfortable. The most dangerous Internet predators seek to meet their victims in person.
If HB 407 is approved by the Judiciary Committee, it would move forward for full consideration before the entire House chamber.