Letter to the Editor

Protection from sexual predators

Friday, February 3, 2006

Missouri's children must be protected. As Missouri's Governor, a parent and a member of a community it is my goal to sign tough legislation to increase the penalties for sexual predators, particularly those who commit crimes against children.

I was very pleased to sign some of the most aggressive legislation in our nation last year to track sex offenders. Missouri joined only five other states to require lifetime global positioning satellite\tracking of individuals convicted of certain sexual offenses against children as a condition of their parole.

This year, I am asking the General Assembly to pass a version of Florida's Jessica's Law, which will mandate a lifetime sentence with a minimum of 25 years served for statutory rape or statutory sodomy when the victim is under the age of 13. Should these predators be released from prison, I am asking for lifetime monitoring to further ensure our children's safety.

It is unfortunate that in our state and across our nation the Internet is being used as a tool by sexual predators to harm our children.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported more than 13,000 incidents of suspected sexual solicitation over the Internet since 1998. In 1999, one in five children received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet. To end this abuse and protect Missouri children when they are using the Internet, I am asking for the legislature to impose a mandatory minimum sentence for those who solicit or try to take advantage of a minor using the Internet.

I firmly believe that this sentence should be handed down even when a sexual predator is communicating with law enforcement posing as a child. Individuals and communities can also use the Internet to protect themselves from sexual offenders.

Missouri's Sex Offender Registry is one of the best in the nation, but we can do better. I have proposed that we strengthen the registry and continue to make adjustments to ensure it is a useful tool to protect our families from sexual offenders.

I thank and commend our law enforcement officials for taking action and working with me to develop the tools they need to effectively protect Missouri's children. As your governor I will continue to be proactive and fight for tougher penalties against sexual predators looking to harm our children.