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Macpherson tries to shut door on Internet predators

Rep. Greg Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego, carried legislation in the Oregon House Monday to protect young people from sexual predators on the Internet.

'The Internet presents a whole new set of dangers,' Macpherson said. 'It gives total anonymity to the criminal, which is especially frightening when he's a sexual predator.'

House Bill 3515 creates new crimes of online sexual corruption of a child in the first and second degree. The second-degree crime is committed when an adult knowingly uses an online communication to solicit a child the adult reasonably believes to be under age 16 for the purpose of engaging in sex. The first-degree crime is committed when that adult takes a substantial step toward physically meeting the child.

'Our teenagers have no way to be sure that the new friend they met on line is, as claimed, another teenager struggling with the natural stresses of growing up,' Macpherson told House members. 'Too often it's a 30-year old male engaging in what law enforcement experts call 'grooming.' He befriends the teen, waiting until defenses are lowered, and then proposes a meeting.'

Oregon is one of only eight states that do not make online sexual solicitation a crime. As a result, law enforcement generally can charge a predator only when he shows up at the home of the teen for a sexual encounter, Macpherson said. As a result of the legislation, proposing a meeting over the Internet can be prosecuted as second degree sexual corruption. Showing up for a meeting can be charged specifically as first degree sexual corruption instead of an attempted sex crime.

'This will help us respond to a new danger of this 21st Century,' Macpherson said. 'While predators of the past lurked in the shadows of dark streets, too many now hide in the anonymity offered by the internet. Let's shine a light on them.'

House Bill 3515 passed the House by a unanimous vote. It goes now to the Senate.