Calls For More Severe Penalties
Taking action to keep dangerous sexual predators off the streets in the wake of recent sexual crimes at city parks, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced last week a range of proposals that provide stiffer penalties for criminals and increased support for victims.
“We’re here today because we are deeply concerned about the recent series of sexual assaults in New York City. These distributing attacks underscore the need to crack down on sexual predators and help those who are victimized by their crimes,” said Quinn last Tuesday, Oct. 9. “To that end, we are calling for these reforms and will work together to ensure that they are enacted. I thank my colleagues at all levels of government and advocates for their dedication to this effort.”
The proposals presented by the Speaker will enable prosecutors and judges to seek justice with the strongest penalties for sex crimes, and include measures to combat repeat sexual attacks. The proposals also provide support for a crucial program that both assists victims of sex crimes and provides the evidence needed to identify and prosecute their attackers. Specifically, Quinn proposed:
– Increase In-Person Appearance Requirements for Level 2 Sex Offenders- Under state law, Level 2 offenders should be required to appear before law enforcement once a year to be photographed. Currently, only Level 3 offenders are required to appear each year, and Level 2 offenders appear once every three years.
– Expand the time period under which repeat sexual offenders can be charged with persistent sexual abuse-Under New York State law, the prosecution of persistent sexual abuse is limited by a 10-year window. Furthermore, there are no restrictions on this time, meaning a criminal who serves an extended jail sentence and commits a repeat sex abuse crime upon release from jail could avoid punishment as a repeat sex offender.
– Increase penalties for multiple acts of public lewdness-Those who publicly expose themselves in a lewd manner multiple times can create real harm and perpetuate a continuum of sexual assault from street harassment to violent sexual attacks. It is important to provide a deterrent and an appropriate punishment to such behavior. The Council has already taken action and made serial acts of public lewdness a class A misdemeanor, a result of legislation sponsored by Public Safety Chair Peter Vallone Jr. However, there are no statewide penalties for this repeat offense.
– Secure dedicated funding to the city’s Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART) program-Funding to this vital program should be baselined at its current funding level of $1.272 m and should not be placed on the city’s PEG list. SART teams are based in the city’s acute care public hospitals and provide around-the-clock, stateof the-art forensic and counseling services to victims of sexual assault. SART personnel are specially trained forensic examiners and rape crisis counselors who, in addition to providing quality medical care to victims, play critical roles in law enforcement investigation by collecting and preserving criminal evidence, providing expert testimony on forensic issues and training the NYPD and EMS.
It is the only program in the city that provides forensic exams of sexual assault suspects. When they are used, a rape victim is seen faster than s/he normally would be and the evidence collection is of a higher quality. SART teams not only provide sensitive care for victims, they produce results that allow prosecutors to bring better cases and ultimately ensure that the criminals responsible for heinous crimes are punished.
– Call on judges to seek maximum penalties for sex crimes-Quinn sent a letter to New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, requesting his assistance in addressing the issue of sex crimes. In her letter she stated: “It is of vital importance that the citizens of New York feel that all of the branches of our legal system are working together to send a message that sex crimes will not be tolerated and to ensure that those committing sexual assaults receive the strongest possible sentencing.”
“We need to make New York City the safest city in America for women. These proposals will move us in the right direction by dedicating more resources to the problem of violence against women,” said City Council Member Julissa Ferreras, chair of the Women’s Issues Committee.
Vallone, who authored the law changing a second lewdness conviction from a “B” misdemeanor to an “A,” says that Albany needs to do the same thing.
“Albany needs to follow the lead of New York City and provide more protection to women on our streets and subways. A second offense MUST be punished more severely,” he added
“Recent sex attacks throughout the city are unacceptable and show we must do more to ensure women’s safety. My legislation addressing ‘persistent sexual abuse’ to more effectively hold offenders accountable under the law would be a good start to keeping such miscreants off our streets,” said State Sen. Michael Gianaris. “No one should have to live in fear of being threatened or assaulted as they go about their daily lives. I thank Speaker Quinn for the proposals she is introducing today as well as her continued leadership in the fight against sexual violence.”
“Earlier this year, I introduced a bill in the New York State Assembly to prevent sex offenders who repeatedly target women and children from finding leniency in legal loopholes,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. “The law must provide protection for the most vulnerable among us, not a shield for predators.”