West Virginia Legislators Focus On Crimes Against Children - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

West Virginia Legislators Focus On Crimes Against Children

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West Virginia's Crimes Against Children Unit has logged more than 500 criminal investigations so far in 2013.

It has conducted more than one thousand interviews and arrested nearly 200 offenders. So for Sergeant Adam Scott, no day is ever the same.

"My unit investigates internet crimes against children , child physical and sexual abuse, child neglect cases, and we also have members who teach other law enforcement members and child protect services across the state how to investigate crimes against children," he said.

There are more than four thousand registered sex offenders in West Virginia and more than 800 on the child abuse registry.

"It's very common just in the area I cover in Northern West Virginia here," Sgt. Scott said. "I have 9 to 10 cases open at all times. Any given week I have 9 to 10 cases I'm investigating. I get done with those and there at 9 to 10 more cases to be investigated."

The West Virginia Legislature has formed a Select Committee to focus on Crimes Against Children.

Select committee members include committee chairwoman Delegates Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming and Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia. Delegate Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire, is the committee minority chairperson.

Together, they are focusing specifically on sexual abuse.

"Over 23 hundred children in West Virginia who were victims last year aren't old enough to go to school and it's primarily sexual abuse," said Barbara Fleischauer, (D) Monongalia.

After meeting with State Police and Child Advocacy Centers, the committee came up with several recommendations.

One of which is to expand the Crimes Against Children Unit, which currently has only 18 state troopers.

"What we would like to do is get more seasoned troopers in there. The State Police suggested the best way to do that is if we have a whole new class of troopers, which is about 50," Fleischauer said. "It would cost about 5.7 million dollars."

"Crimes against children and investigations and convicted sex offenders are doubling each year and our unit isn't growing that way. So you can see the problem," Sgt. Scott said.

Other recommendations include clarifying the language in child pornography laws.

"There is a way to go online to look at these photographs that doesn't involve downloading to your computer so that isn't actual possession. So we have some language that would fix that. We also have a punishment for people that have over 500 images on their computer," Fleischauer said.

We will continue taking a look at the committee's recommendations on Wednesday with a look at child advocacy centers across the state.