Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin sent letters yesterday to Governor Lincoln Chafee urging him to sign key pieces of legislation that would protect children from sexual predators and enhance the safety and security of neighborhoods from gang violence.
The General Assembly passed legislation at the request of Attorney General Kilmartin that would create "child safe zones," prohibiting any facility or business that provides programs or services intended primarily for minors from employing a registered sex offender. The legislation, H7764 Sub A as amended, was sponsored by Representative Mia Ackerman (D – District 45, Cumberland, Lincoln).
In a letter to Governor Chafee, Attorney General Kilmartin writes, "It is alarming that there is currently no provision in law that prohibits those under a duty to register as a sex offender from working in an environment that provides them access to children. Our children are very vulnerable in these settings where they must rely on the trust of the adults around them. It is essential that our laws provide a safe environment for our children when they are at their most vulnerable. This act helps to ensure protection of our children from sexual predators."
States, counties and municipalities across the country have enacted child safe zones of some nature. Whether it is designating a zoned area where a sex offender is not allowed to be, entities at which a sex offender is not allowed to volunteer or be employed, or zones where a sex offender may not reside, at least 19 states have laws in place that restrict certain employment and volunteer opportunities for registered sex offenders.
In a separate letter, Attorney General Kilmartin urged Governor Chafee to sign legislation that would provide for sentencing enhancement for individuals who are convicted of a felony and are found to be associated with a criminal street gang.
The legislation (H7457/S2639), submitted at the request of Attorney General Kilmartin, was sponsored by Representative Raymond A. Hull (D – District 6, North Providence, Providence) and Senator Paul V. Jabour (D – District 5, Providence). Under the terms of the bill, any person who is convicted of any felony that is knowingly committed for the benefit, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang shall be subject to imprisonment for an additional term of not more than 10 years. The bill lays out the rigorous procedure which must be accomplished prior to imposition of this enhanced sentence.
In the letter to the Governor, Attorney General Kilmartin recounted the gang-related killing of 12-year-old Aynis Vargas of Providence in June 2013.
"Unfortunately, one need not look back longer than the recent trial of Luis "Fat Boy" Gonzalez for a graphic example of the need for this legislation. Gonzalez and four other gang members were convicted for their roles in the murder of Aynis Vargas, an innocent twelve-year-old girl who happened to be attending a graduation party with family members. Vargas was killed and three others at the party wounded by these defendants who sought to retaliate for damage to a vehicle and for an earlier murder of an associate," wrote Kilmartin.
The legislation is based upon similar legislation in numerous other states and is designed to provide enhanced penalties for those defendants whose motivation to commit crimes comes from their loyalty to a criminal organization, and whose disregard for public safety has resulted in numerous deaths and serious injuries, particularly from gun violence.
"This bill attempts to address violence acts by those who commit those acts out of an allegiance to a criminal street gang. It is a critical tool to be used to address violent crime in our communities," said Kilmartin.