Project Safe Childhood – Protecting Children for Sexual Predators – Comments by Teen Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

A program in North Carolina is active in protecting children from sexual predators. Robert Martin Kutzer, age 32 from Leicester, North Carolina, was convicted of online enticement of a minor to engage in an unlawful sex act.

The jury found that Kutzer engaged in several online chat conversations with an undercover detective from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office in a Yahoo! chat room. Evidence also showed that the defendant believed the detective to be a 14-year-old girl from Buncombe County. The jury heard evidence that Kutzer steered the online conversation to the topic of sex and that the defendant was responsible for injecting explicit and sexually graphic content into the online chat and that the defendant then arranged to meet this person whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Robert Martin Kutzer was taken into custody by United States Marshals following the pronouncement of the verdict on Friday, January 25, 2007.

This federal prosecution was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims.

The online enticement charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison. In July of 2006 the mandatory minimum penalty for this crime was increased from five to ten years via The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. There is no possibility of parole in the federal system.

There are many concerns in our environment today about social networking – something that adults don’t feel comfortable with in general. Sites such as MySpace and Facebook make it easy for teens to post and share personal information, pictures, and video, which change the environment for the predators to function.

Years back, for most adults with teenage children, we advised our kids to avoid talking to strangers. Frankly, the place(s) where predators sought their prey was limited to physical gathering spots for children and teens. Today, however, the pond is much different. Today, the predator is not limited to the physical location of the kids, they, instead, prey in the much larger pond of the internet. Unfortunately, adults don’t know how to monitor that environment and the kids feel safe at home with their social networking sites – assuming that most people are honest. Reality is that most kids are unsuspecting and vulnerable. Teenage girls are particularly at risk of online sexual exploitation. A recent study by University of New Hampshire researchers for National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that of the approximately one in seven youth who received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet, 70 percent were girls.

Chuck Gallagher, Ethics Speaker

As a teen ethics speaker (www.chuckgallagher.com) I address teens and young adults about the effects of the choices that they make. Every choice has a consequence. More importantly, however, I have recently begun a series of programs aimed at educating parents about social networking, the internet and how to help keep kids safe. For information contact me at www.chuckgallagher.com.

Project Safe Childhood Press Releases for January 2008:

Comments or questions are welcome!

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