Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 15, 2013

Crimes against children Legislative proposal merits approval

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — It is no secret that we have seen an alarming increase in recent months in the number of individuals who have been charged with sex crimes against children. And this is reason for concern in our community.

 Unfortunately, the Internet has made it easier for many sick-minded individuals to attempt to contact or solicit innocent children. But we’ve also seen teachers, church leaders and even daycare workers arrested in recent months on sexual-related crimes involving children. And that’s very disconcerting.

It will take an increased law enforcement presence to stem the rise in local sexual predators. That’s why a recent legislative proposal is of utmost importance.

It was announced last week that a legislative committee in West Virginia would seek millions of dollars to combat sex crimes against children by hiring 50 new state troopers. This would more than double the size of this year’s class of cadets.

The Select Committee on Crimes Against Children presented a package of proposals aimed at protecting children during a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol. The Associated Press reported that the committee plans to seek $5.7 million in funding for the new troopers and also wants $250,000 in funding for child advocacy centers throughout the state.

If approved, the funding would authorize the West Virginia State Police to expand its overall ranks to a total of about 750. The current year’s class of cadets had only about 20 individuals enrolled.

Delegate Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming, a local lawmaker serving Mercer, McDowell and Wyoming counties, currently serves as the chairwoman of the Select Committee on Crimes Against Children. She says she’s already had conversations with House leadership about the budget proposals and that through sharing already appropriated funding, “we can do this.”

The West Virginia State Police says if it is able to enroll 50 new people into its cadet class, it would be able to reassign more experienced troopers to its Crimes Against Children Unit as soon as the replacement troopers are trained and equipped. Currently, 18 troopers are assigned to the unit, according to First Sgt. Daniel Swiger, deputy director of the unit.

The troopers would like to have 85 uniformed members assigned to the crimes against children unit by 2018. The unit was formed in 2006. Since that time the number of registered sex offenders has grown from 1,675 to 4,178 in 2012.

We believe this funding request from the Select Committee on Crimes Against Children is of utmost importance, and merits full funding consideration by lawmakers.

While the state budget may be tight, protecting our child from sexual predators must be considered a priority by lawmakers. There is absolutely no room for bipartisan debate when it comes to keeping our children safe and putting sexual predators behind bars.