Act to make Pa. safer for children
On July 11, a 5-year-old girl was kidnapped from her front yard in Lancaster County. Fortunately, she was heroically rescued by two teenage boys who discovered her in the backseat of a car. The boys pursued the vehicle on bicycles until the car stopped and the girl was let out.
The next week, police announced that 73-year-old Harold Leroy Herr had been charged with kidnapping, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and other counts in the case. According to news accounts, Herr is a registered sex offender who had served time for raping and abducting a 5-year-old girl in 1989.
Making sure our children are safe is vital to me. Taking steps to assure that playgrounds, schools, and bus stops are safe places needs to be a paramount concern.
We must take stronger steps to protect those who cannot protect themselves. The truth of the matter is that violent sexual predators exist, and they are stalking our children.
Our permissive and naïve approach to monitoring sex offenders leaves children at the mercy of those bent on hurting them. When the unthinkable happens, we, as a community, are reduced to harrowing parental pleas and searches that all too often culminate at landfills and shallow graves.
According to national statistics, thousands of children are abducted annually. While it is not my intent to alarm people by citing these numbers, these statistics speak volumes about the exposure and vulnerability of children in our society.
Earlier this year, I reintroduced a legislative package aimed at making our children safer. One of my bills would ban sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, preschool, day-care facility, or public playground. The measure would also prohibit sex offenders from living within 500 feet of a school bus stop.
This legislation, while no magic bullet, accomplishes something that is extremely important: It limits opportunity. Imposing reasonable residency restrictions keeping sex offenders away from places children congregate is a step in the right direction. In fact, 27 other states agree with me and have enacted similar legislation.
Senate Bill 86 provides families with an additional layer of protection by ensuring that sexual predators cannot reside next to places children frequent. By limiting opportunities, I hope we can ensure that there will be fewer tragic cases like the one in Lancaster - and that the most vulnerable members of our communities will be better protected.
State Sen. Lisa Boscola is a Democrat representing parts of Northampton, Lehigh, and Monroe Counties. Contact her via www.senatorboscola.com.