Newly-proposed legislation in Massachusetts could set the stage for certain sexual predators in the state to have their assets seized.
According to an announcement from Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, he and State Sen. Barry Feingold, an Andover Democrat, have proposed the bill, said to be modeled on existing state controlled substance and human trafficking laws.
The announcement also comes in the spotlight of the ongoing John Burbine child sex abuse case. Burbine, a former Wakefield resident, is facing more than 100 counts of child sex abuse stemming from his work at his wife's one-time illegal daycare business.
The legislation would allow, with court permission, for items such as cameras, cell phones and computers that are used in crimes like child pornography or enticement of minors to be seized and disposed of at the conclusion of a case.
“Crime evolves and with it so must our laws,” said Koutoujian. “The federal government and a host of states already have asset forfeiture statutes that cover this type of crime. It’s my belief this could help us in Massachusetts better educate our children on how to stay safe online and enhance law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute those who prey on our children.”
Feingold noted that funds raised under the law would be used to fund investigations of other child sex predators.
"Last year there were over 40 state police investigations related to child pornography in Middlesex County alone,” said Feingold “This is an ugly problem in our state but our hope is this bill will help bring that number down through Internet safety education and increased financial resources for investigators."
Two years ago this week, North Andover was rocked to the core when high school wrestling coach David Castricone was arrested on child pornography charges. Castricone has since been convicted after entering a plea deal with prosecutors.
State Rep. Diana DiZoglio said modern times call for modernized protection of children from predators.
"With the rapid expansion of social media in recent years, we’ve seen kids drifting away from face-to-face communication, and toward a Facebook style of communication," DiZoglio said. "For many, social media websites have become the new playground when it comes to making friends. Predators can enter a social media playground, undetected, a lot more easily than they can enter a real one. We need to keep our laws, prevention strategies and penalties updated to change with the times. I fully support the legislation. It’s a good step in the right direction."
State Sen. Bruce Tarr called for tough legislation regarding child predators in December and promised to make it a priority this year.
“We want to produce as comprehensive a bill as possible. I am looking forward to engaging in a dialogue with other stakeholders – including law enforcement, district attorneys and other legislators – to craft legislation that will provide better safeguards so predators like Burbine are classified properly and not allowed to continue to prey on innocent victims,” Tarr said then.
North Andover has several sex offenders living and/or working in town, most of them having been convicted of crimes against minors, according to the Sex Offender Registry.