Deter abuse of children

Rarely does a month go by without us having to publish a police or court report involving an adult who has victimized a child sexually. Earlier this month, in fact, two men were indicted in Jefferson County, one for an offense involving an 8-year-old and the other for conduct with a 14-year-old.

Such cases are all too common in the rest of Eastern Ohio as well. In Belmont County alone, a man was sentenced to eight years behind bars in June for crimes involving child pornography and three separate school districts had employees accused of inappropriate contact with students within the past year. In Harrison County in March, a man was sentenced in March for sexual misconduct with a child who was just 3 years old.

Clearly, criminal penalties for those who prey on children are not sufficient to deter some of the scum.

In Ohio, it is possible to be out of jail in as little as six months after being convicted of some child-sex crimes. It is even worse in West Virginia, where the minimum sentence is 90 days.

Judges in our area tend to hand down harsher punishment, and that is a very good thing. Some of the thugs, both male and female, who abuse and assault children sexually deserve to be sent to prison for the rest of their lives.

Local police officers also do their part to investigate and arrest those who may be preying upon children. Those involved with the SPII Task Force, for example, invest many hours on and off the clock monitoring people they suspect are online predators, often resulting in arrests both locally and across Ohio.

Still, the minimum sentences may encourage some predators to believe that even if they are caught, they can get away with the proverbial slap on the wrist. Legislators in both our states should consider taking that hope away from them, with the goal of making it clear West Virginians and Ohioans will do all in our power to deter sexual victimization of children — and to keep those convicted of it off the streets for a long, long time.