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Delaware cracks down on child predators

 (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

A new law gives children in Delaware enhanced protections from online sexual predators.

Gov. Jack Markell signed House Bill 256 on Tuesday, officially amending Delaware’s child sexual solicitation law. The measure clarifies that a sexual predator is guilty of sexual solicitation online whether the defendant solicits an actual child or an undercover investigator posing as a child.

The law also elevates the felony classification if the predator travels to meet the child or detective he is soliciting online.

“The safety of our children is our top priority,” said Markell. “We continue to work together to shield our children from harm and hold those who hurt them accountable. This bill strengthens those efforts.”

HB 256 received overwhelming support in the state House and the Senate earlier this spring. It was proposed by Attorney General Beau Biden and the co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Kids Caucus, Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South, and Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington.

Formed in 2003, the bipartisan caucus is made up of state senators and representatives dedicated to improving the lives of Delaware’s children.

“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,” Heffernan said. “We have now updated our laws to include all electronic devices and modes of communication that sexual predator could use to sexually solicit a child.” 

“We hope this law will further protect our children by increasing the criminal penalties for those convicted of attempting to solicit them for sex by keeping those most heinous criminals off the streets for longer stretches,” McDowell said.

The bill builds on both proactive and reactive investigations conducted by Delaware’s Child Predator Task Force. The task force was created in 2007 as part of a federal push cracking down on internet crimes against children. 

“Our kids and our families have been made more secure by the work of the Delaware Child Predator Task Force which works tirelessly to proactively identify the worst predators in society: those who target children,” Biden said. “This new law gives the Task Force and law enforcement across our state more powerful tools to put predators behind bars where they belong.”

The state Dept. of Justice said that since its creation, the task force has convicted more than 190 child predators and rescued 120 children who were being abused or being groomed for future victimization. 

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