Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joe Biden (D-DE) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), today introduced the Violence Against Children Act of 2007, legislation that would provide a comprehensive approach to combating violent crimes against children, including tougher penalties, assistance for local law enforcement, and help for the children who are victims.
Title IV of the bill, which targets prevention funds to high intensity gang areas, came about as the result of the tragic death of Mynisha Crenshaw, an 11 year old girl killed by a stray bullet in November 2005 while eating dinner with her family in San Bernardino. This gang-related dispute drew increased attention to the severe violence that plagues many of our children. Boxer separately introduced this portion of the bill, known as Mynisha’s Law, this past January.
Boxer said, “In recent years, we have heard countless stories of boys and girls being killed, abused or kidnapped. These horrible crimes must be stopped, and we must have zero tolerance for the criminals who perpetrate them. This bill toughens penalties for criminals, provides more resources for law enforcement, and provides care for victims of these heinous crimes. Senators Biden, Feinstein and I will work to get this bill passed—there is nothing more important than the well-being of our children.”
Biden said, “The Violence Against Children Act prevents and punishes one of the most troubling classes of crime—crimes of violence against children. The Act protects the most vulnerable people in our society—our children—and helps build safe, healthy families by providing states with new resources, law enforcement with additional tools, and families with more places to turn to for help.”
Feinstein said, “Children are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime than adults. We have a special obligation to protect the young and innocent from the violence of criminal street gangs and others. The Violence Against Children Act will create new federal penalties for crimes against children, and authorize new grant funds for child protection services, school security, victims’ assistance, and safe havens for newborn babies. This legislation is needed to protect our most vulnerable citizens—our children.”
The VACA would do the following:
- Toughen federal criminal penalties for crimes against children. Make it a federal crime to intentionally cause serious bodily injury to a person under 18 if the crime involves interstate commerce or travel. Would not mandate federal prosecution, thus preserving state and local authority, and call for tougher penalties for federal crimes involving children.
- Provide assistance to local police and prosecutors. Authorize $50 million each year in grants for states and localities to combat crimes against children, train law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges in identifying and responding to crimes against children, and create more law enforcement units that specifically deal with crimes against children. Make more federal resources and expertise accessible to states and localities.
- Provide help for the children. Authorize $50 million each year in grants for local governments and nonprofits to provide emergency medical treatment for child victims and counseling to victims and their families, increase the number of mental health professionals specializing in child victims, establish hotlines and run prevention programs.
- Provide tools to states to help protect children. Require states to gather better statistics on child crime and report to the federal government on their method of monitoring the child protective services system.
- Provide federal assistance to deal with gangs. Permit local jurisdictions to apply to the Attorney General for designation as a high intensity gang area and receive coordinated comprehensive federal resources from a task force that includes members from the Departments of Justice, Education, Health & Human Services, Labor and Housing & Urban Development.
- Provide federal assistance to local schools to implement enhanced safety measures. Provide $50 million in grants through DoJ to partnerships of local law enforcement and schools to implement enhanced safety measures such as tiplines, surveillance equipment, and capital improvements.