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Crime-fund surplus sought for Virginia’s child exploitation fight

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, other law enforcement officials and state lawmakers pushed Tuesday to find additional money to combat child pornography and child exploitation in Virginia.

A 2010 law imposed an additional $10 fee for every criminal conviction in the state to fund the state's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces and law enforcement efforts.

But the revenue generated by the law has exceeded a $1.8 million projection by about $650,000 annually. Under the current language, any surplus was to be funneled to the general fund, which pays for items such as education and health care.

Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, Alleghany Democrat, who drafted the original legislation, is now proposing a budget amendment to transfer $630,000 a year back to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) fund. And Delegate C. Todd Gilbert, Shenandoah Republican, also has proposed legislation that would increase transfers from the fund.

"Protection of children is not a partisan issue," Mr. Deeds said. "The reality is, we've just scratched the surface with child sexual abuse. We can't rest until we wipe it out."

The state has two Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, one in Northern Virginia and another in southern Virginia.

Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, cited recent cases in which predators were caught, but said that it's never enough.

"The problem is, there are more than enough predators out there," he said. "Every [Internet] image is an offense."

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown attested that images of the crimes are indelible once a child has seen them.

"The louder the child screams, the better they like it," he said. "Once you see it, you never forget it."

Camille Cooper, with the anti-crime group PROTECT, told the story of 7-year-old Somer Thompson, who was abducted, raped and murdered by Jared Harrell in Florida. He was sentenced Friday to life in prison.

Harrell's computer was actually left sitting in a police evidence room in Florida because his roommates had turned it in. On his desktop was a file called "toddler insertion" that contained a self-made video of Harrell raping his young niece, Ms. Cooper said.

"If you can take one of these guys off the streets for 20 years, you've saved hundreds of children from being assaulted," she said.

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