Guest Post from Kristal Jabara Council Member City of San Marcos – Protecting Our Children
Since being elected to serve San Marcos I have had the distinct pleasure of working with the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which is an outgrowth from SANDAG’s (San Diego Association of Governments) Public Safety Committee. Accepting an invitation from fellow Council Member Rebecca Jones, who serves as San Marcos’s representative for the Public Safety Committee, to join ICAC has been one of my most challenging and gratifying experiences.
The task force is made up of hard working representatives from the San Diego ICAC Division, Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, representatives from the cities of Solana Beach, Vista, San Marcos, and two nonprofit coalitions, The Joyful Child and Innocent Justice Foundation. A tremendous amount of work is accomplished through this group considering we meet just once per month for an hour. The group has had two primary goals, 1. To introduce and pass new legislation that would create stricter laws for child predators and 2. To develop new public outreach tools.
This year Assembly Bill 1817, which will add commercial computer technicians to the list of mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect was introduced by California Assembly Member Toni Atkins of San Diego. AB 1817, was sponsored by the local grassroots group CA Keeping Innocence Digitally Safe and would require a report to be made by computer professionals when they have knowledge or observe a child who appears to be under 16 years of age being subject to sexual conduct on an electronic medium. The ICAC Task Force worked to gain local support for the bill by asking local elected officials to support the measure. The bill has unanimously passed the Assembly’s Public Safety and Appropriations Committee and is a major step in giving individuals, companies, law enforcement and district attorney’s more power to identify, catch, and convict child predators.
In addition to this monumental legislative change the task force has been hard at work developing public service announcements for the San Diego region. By creating a series of PSA’s about the dangers of internet crimes against children, our team hopes to raise awareness for parents and children about the potential risks of the internet and steps they can take to protect themselves and their families. We are in the final approval stages for the first two videos and are expecting their release within the month.
The first video is designed to warn parents about the hazards children face while on the internet. The video features commentary from Elizabeth Smart, who was a victim of a child predator and now is an advocate for children through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. The video also contains a special message from Sheriff Bill Gore, as well as information on where parents can find additional resources for keeping their children safe while using the internet.
The second video is aimed at the tween / teen audience and addresses the dark side of technology. The video features commentary by Alicia Kozakevitch, a teenager who was groomed, lured, and abducted by a 38 year old internet predator posing as a young teen boy. Alicia’s testimony is direct, powerful, and will not be easily forgotten. Also included are tips for the teen audience, a message from the Sheriff, and additional resources at the end.
Both videos contain a map of the United States depicting, with red dots, each time a child sexual abuse image is trafficked in a 24 hour period. By the end of a single day almost the entire US map is covered in red and San Diego County, including San Marcos, is no exception. The videos, especially the teen version, tackle heavy subject matter and can be difficult to watch. Despite this difficulty, it is crucial to educate parents and children now verses even one more family experiencing the real life nightmare of child abuse and abduction.
The task force has been making the rounds to different San Diego agencies, updating them on the legislative measures and previewing the PSA videos. We are waiting for one small change to the teen video, and once that is finished we will be ready for a complete roll out. Our hope is to release the videos to every city, school, and other organizations that work with children in San Diego County. The City of San Marcos will have a link to the PSAs from our website and will show the videos on our government access channel. As soon as the PSAs are ready for their debut, I will share the link with the readers of San Elijo Life. The ICAC Task Force hopes these first two videos will be the beginning of a series of PSAs addressing various aspects of internet safety. We know that tougher laws against child predators are our strongest tools. It is up to each and every one of us to protect our children from the potential evil that lurks behind our computers and smart phones.