**For Immediate Release**
October 9, 2012
Release # 157-2012
Speaker Quinn Proposes Five-Point Plan to Strengthen Protections Against Sexual Predators
Speaker, City & State Legislators, DA Vance, Advocates Seek Increased Penalties for Criminals and Greater Support for Victims
New York, NY – Taking action to keep dangerous sexual predators off the streets, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today announced a range of proposals that provide stiffer penalties for criminals and increased support for victims. Today’s announcement follows a number of recent sexual assault crimes, including attacks in Central Park and Hudson River Park. Council Members Julissa Ferreras, Jessica Lappin and Peter Vallone, as well as State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, joined Speaker Quinn in her announcement. The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, The Crime Victims Treatment Center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital and CONNECT also participated.
Speaker Quinn detailed a package of five proposals that take aim at sexual predators and help those who are victimized by their crimes:
- Increase In-Person Appearance Requirements for Level 2 Sex Offenders
- Expand the time period within which repeat sexual offenders can be charged with persistent sexual abuse
- Increase penalties for multiple acts of public lewdness
- Secure dedicated funding to the City’s Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART) program
- Call on judges to seek maximum penalties for sex crimes
“We’re here today because we are deeply concerned about the recent series of sexual assaults in New York City. These distributing attacks underscore the need to crack down on sexual predators and help those who are victimized by their crimes,” said Speaker Quinn. “To that end, we are calling for these reforms and will work together to ensure that they are enacted. I thank my colleagues at all levels of government and advocates for their dedication to this effort.”
The proposals presented by the Speaker will enable prosecutors and judges to seek justice with the strongest penalties for sex crimes, and include measures to combat repeat sexual attacks. The proposals also provide support for a crucial program that both assists victims of sex crimes and provides the evidence needed to identify and prosecute their attackers. Specifically, Speaker Quinn proposed:
- Increase In-Person Appearance Requirements for Level 2 Sex Offenders – Under state law, Level 2 offenders should be required to appear before law enforcement once a year to be photographed. Currently, only Level 3 offenders are required to appear each year, and Level 2 offenders appear once every three years.
- Expand the time period under which repeat sexual offenders can be charged with persistent sexual abuse – Under New York State law, the prosecution of persistent sexual abuse is limited by a ten year window. Furthermore, there are no restrictions on this time, meaning a criminal who serves an extended jail sentence and commits a repeat sex abuse crime upon release from jail could avoid punishment as a repeat sex offender.
- Increase penalties for multiple acts of public lewdness – Those who publicly expose themselves in a lewd manner multiple times can create real harm and perpetuate a continuum of sexual assault from street harassment to violent sexual attacks. It is important to provide a deterrent and an appropriate punishment to such behavior. The Council has already taken action and made serial acts of public lewdness a class A misdemeanor, a result of legislation sponsored by Public Safety Chair Peter Vallone Jr. However, there are no statewide penalties for this repeat offense. The state should follow the Council’s lead and take action to change its laws.
- Secure dedicated funding to the City’s Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART) program – Funding to this vital program should be baselined at its current funding level of $1.272 m and should not be placed on the city’s PEG list. SART teams are based in the City’s acute care public hospitals and provide around-the-clock, state-of-the-art forensic and counseling services to victims of sexual assault. SART personnel are specially trained forensic examiners and rape crisis counselors who, in addition to providing quality medical care to victims, play critical roles in law enforcement investigation by collecting and preserving criminal evidence, providing expert testimony on forensic issues and training the NYPD and EMS. It is the only program in the City that provides forensic exams of sexual assault suspects. When they are used, a rape victim is seen faster than s/he normally would be and the evidence collection is of a higher quality. SART teams not only provide sensitive care for victims, they produce results that allow prosecutors to bring better cases and ultimately ensure that the criminals responsible for heinous crimes are punished.
- Call on judges to seek maximum penalties for sex crimes – Speaker Quinn sent a letter to New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, requesting his assistance in addressing the issue of sex crimes. In her letter she stated: “It is of vital importance that the citizens of New York feel that all of the branches of our legal system are working together to send a message that sex crimes will not be tolerated and to ensure that those committing sexual assaults receive the strongest possible sentencing.”
“We need to make New York City the safest city in America for women. These proposals will move us in the right direction by dedicating more resources to the problem of violence against women,” said Council Member Ferreras, Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee.
“These measures will help make our city safer by cracking down on sex offenders and getting victims the justice they deserve,” said Council Member Lappin.
Council Member Vallone, who authored the law changing a second lewdness conviction from a “B” misdemeanor to an “A,” says that Albany needs to do the same thing.
“Albany needs to follow the lead of New York City and provide more protection to women on our streets and subways. A second offense MUST be punished more severely.”
State Senator Gianaris said, “Recent sex attacks throughout the city are unacceptable and show we must do more to ensure women’s safety. My legislation addressing ‘persistent sexual abuse’ to more effectively hold offenders accountable under the law would be a good start to keeping such miscreants off our streets. No one should have to live in fear of being threatened or assaulted as they go about their daily lives. I thank Speaker Quinn for the proposals she is introducing today as well as her continued leadership in the fight against sexual violence.”
“Earlier this year, I introduced a bill in the New York State Assembly to prevent sex offenders who repeatedly target women and children from finding leniency in legal loopholes,” said Assembly Member Simotas. “The law must provide protection for the most vulnerable among us, not a shield for predators.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said: “These recommendations proposed by Speaker Quinn and her colleagues in the City Council will help keep New Yorkers safe by ensuring more frequent monitoring of convicted sexual felons. Sexual assaults can create lifelong devastating consequences for victims, and we should do everything possible to make sure that sexual predators do not re-offend upon release.”
“The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault praises Speaker Quinn’s proactive approach to sexual violence in our City. We support her efforts to strengthen the laws against public lewdness and repeat sex offenses,” said New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Mary Haviland, Esq. “In addition, we are delighted to see her push for more stable funding for the Sexual Abuse Response Teams that respond 24/7 in our public hospitals to victims of sexual violence. The Alliance and caregivers in the field have been fighting for this measure for some time as necessary to providing timely, sensitive and high quality care to survivors in New York City.”
“These crimes are devastating to the survivors who experience them. They hurt our families and leave serious scare on our community. We applaud Speaker Quinn’s proposals and for taking this issue seriously,” said Susan Xenarios, Director of the Crime Victims Treatment Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.
“CONNECT wholeheartedly supports Speaker Quinn’s proposals to more vigorously address sexual assault in our city,” said CONNECT External Affairs Liaison & Educator Anindita Bhaumik. “If implemented, these measures will assure victims that they can get the support they need to heal, and by vigorously holding perpetrators accountable, will send a strong message: New York City does not support rape culture! There proposals are an important contribution to intervention AND prevention.”
“I congratulate Speaker Quinn for her steadfast support for those who have experienced sexual assault of any kind, and her advocacy of programs that address the needs of those who have experienced the horror of being the victim of a sex crime,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “I am a long-time advocate of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital’s Crime Victims Treatment Center that provides 24-hour, 7 day a week rape crisis counseling and Emergency Room support. I, too, urge that the City’s Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART) be baselined. Their expertise is needed in the public hospitals. All of the counseling services that support victims of sexual assault in our hospitals should be fully funded. Perpetrators of sexual violence and public lewdness are in our communities. I also welcome proposals to stop these horrific crimes and to combat repeat offenders.”
“There is nothing more important than making our streets safer for the women and children of New York City,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “Unfortunately, those who commit sexual assault and lewd acts are likely to repeat this behavior. The proposals announced by Speaker Quinn today will give our laws more teeth and will allow the State to prosecute these predators to the fullest extent of the law. Equally important, the women of the City Council are calling on Mayor Bloomberg to stop any cuts in funding to the City’s Sexual Assault Response Teams. SART is for the victims and it would be disgraceful to cut this service after a summer of increased sexual assaults in our City. I want to thank Speaker Quinn for her continued leadership on this issue and for her compassion and advocacy on behalf victims of sexual assault.”