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Update: Legislators Increase Felon Fee to Fund Online Child Porn Investigations


UPDATE: April 23, 2014

State legislators voted Wednesday to increase a fee assessed to felons, with the additional funding supporting the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Fund.

The measure failed to pass during the General Assembly’s regular session, despite unanimous Senate passage and overwhelming support from crime victim advocates. But Governor Terry McAuliffe revived the legislation this month when he introduced a Governor's amendment, restoring the Alicia's Law fee increase.

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter originally opposed the legislation, but released the following statement Wednesday.

"I fully support the increase from $10 to $15 to support our law enforcement personnel who protect kids from child predators. During the Regular Session, I drafted a substitute to a similar Senate bill - that substitute would have also provided for increased support for the Fund. I will be voting for this amended bill and strongly encourage my colleagues to do the same."

Alicia's Law was first introduced by Senator Creigh Deeds in 2008.

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April 22, 2014

In the past few months a Charlottesville City school teacher, a dean at the University of Virginia, and a deputy with the Greene County Sheriff's Department have been arrested on child pornography charges, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past year, investigators have seen over 10,000 computers in Virginia trafficking hard core images of child pornography.

"Half of those, we know, are actual hands-on offenders and are abusing children in their own communities across Virginia," said Camille Cooper, who works as the Legislative Affairs Director for PROTECT, an organization that works to protect children against crimes.

Cooper is working with state legislators to push Alicia's Law through the General Assembly in a special vote Wednesday. The bill would increase a fee assessed to convicted felons from ten dollars to fifteen dollars. The money would go to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

"Right now you have a few dozen law enforcement investigators scattered across the state investigating these crimes and we need to ramp that up," Cooper said. "This money goes directly to law enforcement to hire more investigators and to train more investigators across the Commonwealth to rescue these children that are being abused."

Alicia's Law was first introduced in Virginia in 2008 by State Senator Creigh Deeds. Named after 13-year-old Alicia Kozakiewicz, who was abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted by a 38-year-old man in his Herndon townhouse who she met online, the legislation imposes a ten dollar fee on convicted felons in the state. The money collected goes directly to funding investigations into online predators.

The change introduced during the 2014 General Assembly session in Richmond would increase that fee to 15 dollars, generating an additional $900,00 annually for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which operates under a current budget of $2.4 million.

Senator Deeds called the increased fee "a win win" for taxpayers. "The ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) units save children's lives," Deeds wrote. "They are paid for by those who commit crime."

Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, the original House patron of Alicia's Law in 2008, said "I have seen first hand the effectiveness of ICAC’s critical investigative tools. We must provide them the necessary resources to stay one step ahead of those who would prey on our children."

Cooper agreed, "$900,000 dollars is going to put a big dent in the problem. That's a lot of boots on the ground."

The measure to increase the felon fee failed to pass during the General Assembly’s regular session, despite unanimous Senate passage and overwhelming support from crime victim advocates. But Governor Terry McAuliffe revived the legislation this month when he introduced a Governor's amendment, restoring the Alicia's Law fee increase. State legislators are expected to vote on the amendment Wednesday.


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