House cracks down on child predators

The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval on Tuesday to bipartisan legislation cracking down on sexual predators and child abuse.

The Senate approved the bill last week and sponsors expect President George W. Bush to sign it on Thursday, the 25th anniversary of the murder of six-year old Adam Walsh, for whom the bill is named.

“This important measure will arm our states and local communities with the tools they need to combat the threats posed by sex offenders and violent criminals,” Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said.

Adam Walsh’s father John became an anti-crime advocate and later the host of the popular television show, “America’s Most Wanted,” which profiles cases and encourages the public to help catch criminals.

The bill would expand registries of offenders and toughen penalties for people who prey on children through crimes such as sex trafficking, abuse and pornography including crimes committed through the Internet.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that there are more than 560,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. About 100,000 are not registered or do not have up-to-date registrations.

The legislation would create a national sex offender registry to plug gaps in existing state system and community notification requirements. The register would be available to the public. An offender who does not keep his registration up to date in any state in which he lives, works or attends school could face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison.

It would also create a registry for substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect to help law enforcement and child protective services.

Addressing concern about Internet predators and online pornography, the bill establishes education grants, and adds 200 new federal prosecutors and 45 new computer forensic scientists to work on such crimes.

Separately, the House also approved by voice vote a bill authorizing up to $4 billion during five years for child abuse prevention and improvement of monitoring children in foster care. It must be reconciled with companion Senate legislation.

© 2006 Reuters