Lecture warns of MySpace dangers

Megan Kanka was a 7-year-old girl from New Jersey. Unknown to her and her family, a known child molester moved in across the street. The man was eventually responsible for the rape and murder of little Megan. After her murder, Megan’s family worked to have local communities warned when sex offenders were present in their community and now every state has some form of what has become known as Megan’s Law.

On Wednesday, the city of La Verne held a lecture at the city hall council chambers about the dangers of sexual predators. Topics of the lecture included Megan’s Law and online sexual predators, specifically from MySpace. Among those at the meeting were the La Verne Chief of Police Scott Pickwith, Community Services Coordinator Bill Witzka, and special guest speaker Del Harvey, the assistant director for Perverted-Justice.com. People of all ages who where interested in learning how to stay safe, both in their communities and online, attended the lecture.

“MySpace is like a buffet for sexual predators,” Harvey said.

The state of California has required sex offenders to register with local law enforcement agencies for more than 50 years. With the passage of Megan’s Law in 1996, the public can now access certain information about sex offenders at home, on their personal computers. If a registered sex offender meets certain requirements, they will be put online for the general public to view. About 75 percent of sex offenders are on this list. Depending on what the person has been convicted of, you may view a picture of the person, what city he or she lives in and possibly even their address. The idea behind this law is to allow the public to be aware of where these people are, but, you still may not harass or commit any crime against these individuals or you can be arrested yourself.

Harvey and the people at Perverted-Justice work closely with local law enforcement to set up stings to catch those preying on underage children. Posing as underage kids, perverted-justice will go online to chat rooms and wait for people to contact them and try to solicit them for sex. According to Xavier Von Erck, the director for Perverted-Justice, they have set up 11 stings this year. Since June 2004, there have been 90 people put in jail because of Perverted-Justice’s work.

There are currently more than 30 registered sex offenders in the city of La Verne. Each of these people is required to come in to the police department once a year. They have a window of five working days before and after their birthday to do this. During her talk, Harvey said that in her experience of catching these sexual predators, the most common occupation among these people has been teachers. According to the department of justice, 90 percent of child victims know their offender and almost half of the offenders are actually family members.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself and your kids from online predators:

1. Use the Internet with your kids, this way they don’t get into something they shouldn’t be in.
2. Never give out your personal information to people you meet online, including:
a. Your real name
b. Your address or city you live in
c. The school you attend
3. Never plan face to face meetings with people you meet online
4. Monitor your kids’ Internet activity.

MySpace and other online communities have grown tremendously over the last couple of years. People can now write, send pictures and even send live video to other people with web cams. All of this has made it easier for people to stay in touch and that’s great, but it has also made it easier than ever for people to become a victim of sexual predators. If you want to access Megan’s law to find out more about the people who may be near you, visit www.meganslaw.ca.gov. You can also visit Perverted-Justice.com to see what they’re doing to help keep kids safe.

Jason Jarvis can be reached at jjarvis2@ulv.edu.

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Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.

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