Lawmakers work to protect children from internet predators –

HARRISBURG — Reps. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) and Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny) and Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-Allegheny) gathered Monday to announce that they have introduced Alicia’s Law in the House and Senate to fund tech lawsuits. – facilitated child sexual exploitation and internet crimes against children.

They were joined at the news conference by Alicia Kozak, who was kidnapped from her Pittsburgh home by an Internet predator at age 13 in 2002. She became the first known case of such a crime.

Alicia was chained and held captive in the attacker’s dungeon in Virginia. He broadcast the abuse live and Alicia was saved thanks to an anonymous tip to the FBI.

Since her rescue, Alicia has been a fierce advocate for internet safety, working to educate the public and policymakers about the dangers of online predators and how to stop predatory crimes.

“Since the horrific events Alicia endured, internet crimes against children have exploded in part due to the proliferation of social media apps and smartphone use,” Ortitay said.

“As the father of a preschool-aged daughter, we need to send a message to bullies that they cannot hide online. We will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.

“As we navigate the complexities of the digital age, it is imperative that our law enforcement agencies have the resources necessary to address the alarming increase in crimes against children on the Internet,” Robinson said.

“By introducing Alicia’s Law, we are taking a proactive step to provide crucial funding for the prosecution of technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and other online crimes targeting children. It is imperative that our laws keep up with evolving technology as we work tirelessly to keep Pennsylvania’s children safe.

“Our attorney general needs more tools in his toolbox to combat crimes against children on the Internet,” Benham said. “Our laws must catch up with our technology as we work to keep Pennsylvania’s children safe.”

“As a survivor of kidnapping and exploitation, I know first-hand the critical importance of having resources dedicated to combating these heinous crimes,” Kozak said.

“In my 20 years speaking to students across the country, most recently in Pennsylvania, I have seen first-hand the devastating impact that online predators can have on the lives of young people.

“Predator technology and tactics have changed significantly since my ordeal and we must ensure that those participating in this fight are best equipped to do their jobs in this ever-changing technological world.

“Alicia’s Law will give law enforcement the tools they need to quickly identify, apprehend and prosecute these predators.

“Every child deserves to grow up safe from harm, and every day without this law is one day too many that children remain vulnerable.

“Passing Alicia’s Law is a critical step in our commitment to protecting our children and ensuring justice for those who have suffered. It’s time to stand together for Pennsylvania’s children and make this a safer place for every child.

“I never thought my family would be a victim of this when I saw Alicia’s story on the news at the time,” said Jill, a Pittsburgh-area mother. “Years later, my daughter was the victim of a sexual predator.

“Recently, Alicia gave a presentation at her school and we decided as a family that we needed to stand up and do something about it. It’s time for our legislators to join us in supporting Alicia’s Law, supporting the safety of our children, and ensuring that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has sufficient resources to keep them safe by properly investigating and prosecuting predators who use the Internet to harm our children. .”

“Giving law enforcement what they need to prevent and respond to these heinous crimes must be our top priority,” said Lena Hannah, who worked to bring Kozak to the South Fayette Township School District to speak to students in 2010 and 2024.

“Our children depend on it. Your children depend on it. Supporting Alicia’s Law will save lives.

“In my 16 years as an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Investigator, I never imagined the situation could get worse,” said Det. Sgt. Chaz Balogh, Luzerne County Prosecutor’s Office.

“Well, it is. CyberTips have tripled since COVID, which has created a backlog of cases. Law enforcement is in desperate need of funding to augment our resources and help the ICAC Task Force continue our mission.

House Bill 2199 and Senate Bill 1233 would create a process to establish state and local task forces across the Commonwealth to combat internet crimes against children.

These task forces would complement and enhance the work of the existing federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force program, under which 61 task forces across the country receive funding, training and technical assistance for protection of children who are online. One of them currently operates in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, under the bills, additional funding for these new task forces and any federally recognized task forces in Pennsylvania would come from a partial redirection of an existing funding stream that supports court operations .

Alicia’s Law is already in effect in 12 states. The bills were referred to the respective judiciary committees.

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