Tuesday, October 04, 2005

High Profile Cases Highlight Need for Better Child Safety Measures


Joseph Edward Duncan III was convicted in 1980 of raping and torturing a 14-year-old Washington boy and served 14 years in prison. After his release, he traveled undetected throughout the United States.

Now, Duncan is suspected of killings, kidnappings and sexual assaults in several states.

Duncan’s case is one example of why lawmakers are mulling tougher sex offender laws. Out of over 550,000 U.S. sex offenders who are supposed to be registered, it is believed 100,000 are ‘lost’ in the system, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, or NCMEC.

“There are too many loopholes in existing registry laws which allow convicted sexual predators to elude law enforcement and kill our children,” said John Walsh, host of “America’s Most Wanted” and co-founder of the NCMEC. “I know the horror parents can face ever since my beautiful son Adam was abducted and murdered. Tougher laws can help parents avoid a similar tragedy.”

One bill, called “Dru’s Law,” would create a national sex offender registry, give stiffer penalties to those who don’t register and mandate lifetime registration for perpetrators with felony convictions.

Besides supporting legislation, Walsh encourages parents to educate their children about dangerous situations, like grownups asking for help.

“So many kids are uninformed about what to do when approached by people they don’t know. They need to know not to listen to people asking for directions, seeking help finding a pet or who say that their parents are in trouble,” Walsh said. “They should talk to someone older for help.”

Parents and guardians may have difficulty discussing this topic, which is why Walsh and Julie Clark, creator of Baby Einstein, have produced a new DVD series called The Safe Side.

The videos teach kids about safety in a fun, engaging way. Ten percent of gross proceeds go to the NCMEC, a nonprofit organization that works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Serious topics can be very hard for adults to discuss with their kids and get the right message across,” Clark said. “My hope is by making these DVDs informative and entertaining, children can learn important lessons that protect them from dangerous people.”

Parents can visit http://www.thesafeside.com for more on the pending bill and child safety tips.

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