Recently, a Chicago newspaper printed an editorial titled, "Sex-offender limits sometimes go too far," that amazingly sought sympathy not for the thousands of children who fall victim to sex crimes each year in Illinois, but rather for a convicted child pornographer.
The assertion was that this man, "Scott," deserves to be pitied because his life is more difficult thanks to his placement on the Sex Offender Registry. What nonsense. I find this argument both misleading and insensitive to the true victims of these heinous crimes.
Scott gets no compassion from me. I reserve my sympathy for those children among the 15,000 pornographic images discovered on his computer. These are the real victims of criminals like Scott who traffic in child pornography. Scott made a choice to ruin his life. My concern is that his horrid choice destroys the lives of many innocents who get no choice.
Thanks to people like Scott, child pornography is a multibillion industry. More than 100,000 Web sites offer illegal child pornography. But those numbers do not depict the true horror of the abuse involved in child pornography. Young children are sexually penetrated with various objects; many images depict bestiality involving children; rape of children by adults is a common theme.
More than half the children depicted have yet to reach puberty. Even more perverted, 6 percent of child pornography victims appear to literally be babies -- infants and toddlers -- according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In just the past year, more than 750 complaints have been filed with my office concerning online enticement, child prostitution or obscenity directed at minors.
The Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children task force has issued almost 1,400 subpoenas and more than 400 search warrants to track down predators on the Internet. These efforts have resulted in more than 300 arrests.
Recently, my office went after sex offenders on MySpace.com -- requiring the social networking site to provide information on any sex offenders maintaining MySpace profiles. This led to a federal investigation, conviction and life sentence last year for a Granite City man who was not only procuring child pornography but was forcing a local child to engage in sexual activity so he could produce his own.
Unfortunately, such cases are not rare. One national study indicated 40 percent of those arrested were dual offenders, possessing child pornography and sexually victimizing children. Don't tell me pornography is a victimless crime.
A total of 24,494 sex offenders are registered in Illinois. More than 81 percent of those are child sex offenders.
The subject of the recent newspaper editorial, Scott, admits he installed special software on his computer, which each night would go trolling for pornography from the Internet -- including child pornography. Scott admits he knew that possessing child pornography is a crime. Yet now Scott is perplexed he would suffer the consequences of his crimes.
These consequences are exactly what the public demands. The sex offender registry was designed to protect victims, especially children, from these unspeakable crimes. I have no tolerance for those who wish to turn logic upside down and suggest that people like Scott are somehow worthy of our sympathy.
Such twisted judgment seeks a less stringent enforcement of sex offender laws. Too many children already suffer at the hands of sex offenders. The last thing our children need is less protection.
I realize no matter how severe the potential punishment, sex offenders will continue to be a threat. We also need to educate people on how not to fall prey. My office has provided Internet safety training and education to more than 128,000 students, parents and teachers and more than 10,000 law enforcement officers over the past four years.
We will continue these efforts. Such training is vital in a world that so easily and so often brings young children in contact with the Internet -- an amazing resource with equally amazing dangers.
However, we must also be vigilant in battling those who seek to minimize the threat posed by these online predators. In this case, misplaced sympathy is a very dangerous emotion.