JEFFERSON CITY — Some Missouri lawmakers want to make it illegal for sex offenders to take pictures of children.
Rep. Tim Jones on Tuesday told a House committee that criminal penalties might make sex offenders wonder whether it’s really worth it to take snapshots or video recordings.
Under his bill, registered sex offenders who record or take pictures of children without parental approval would face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. It would cover film, movie and digital cameras.
The Missouri proposal is nearly identical to legislation debated in Georgia last year. The Georgia bill was never approved by the full legislature.
Missouri law requires people to register as sex offenders for various crimes involving children, including kidnapping, rape or molestation, sexual assaults and possessing or promoting child pornography. But the sex offender registry also includes some crimes in which the victim isn’t necessarily a child, such as promoting prostitution or sexual contact with a resident of a nursing home.
Those required to register must provide for the publicly accessible database a variety of identifying information. That includes name, alias, home and work addresses, a physical description, driver’s license photos and vehicle model, year, color and license plate.
In recent years, Missouri politicians have proposed tougher penalties and requiring even more information on the sex offender registry. A Senate bill would make it a capital crime to kidnap and rape or sodomize a child.
Rep. Bruce Darrough said he likes the idea of punishing sex offenders who take photos of other people’s children, but is worried it would be unenforceable.
“If someone is a sexual predator in the family, are they going to have to get permission to take pictures in their home, like at birthday parties?” said Darrough, D-Florissant.
Jones, R-Eureka, said Internet social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace make it easier for sex offenders to share pictures. Those sites allow users to create profiles with photos and personal information. Users also can control the privacy settings, making them so strict that only those with approval can see the page, or so broad that anyone using the Internet can see it.
MySpace says it has started identifying and removing registered sex offenders.
Another Democrat on the committee said her biggest concern with the bill barring sex offenders from taking pictures is that the penalty isn’t tough enough.
“Anyone who deals with children in a pedophile type way needs to be punished in a major way,” said Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis.
The House Crime Committee did not vote on the bill.
Photo ban is HB1537
Sex Offender Registry: http://www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/PatrolDivisions/CRID/SOR/SO RPage.html