Protecting Children

Protecting Children

Child Safety Night warns parents about sex offenders.

At last week’s Child Safety Night, parents got an up-close look at a sex offender. The story came from the daughter of the sex offender who was convicted because of the evidence she provided. It’s a tale that Burke resident Diane Beatty has told many times. After her experience with the court system, she was disturbed by what she discovered about the lack of resources in Virginia for tracking and apprehending sex offenders.

Beatty decided to organize the national nonprofit group, ChildSafeNet, Inc.; a program that is attempting to raise $10 million over five years to fund 16 new police positions to better monitor the 130 registered sex offenders in the county. The program will fund 16 new detectives who will monitor the Internet posing as children, and help parole officers keep track of registered sex offenders in the county.

In talking about her experience with her father, Beatty said that she has a better understanding of what traits a sex offender might have. She shared some of those traits with the audience.

“Somebody who can’t look you in the eye; somebody who always has to be at the top of the chain; somebody who always has to be in control; and somebody who looks for situations to be alone with a child, — these are some of the things to look out for,” Beatty said.

PARENTS AND GUESTS also got a better understanding the Sex Offender Registry; which in Virginia is only as good as the information provided by the sex offenders. The state has few resources to check on the validity of the addresses given. There are over 340 registered sex offenders in the Northern Virginia Region, a high percentage of which are located along the Route 1 Corridor; there are many more on the Internet,

Beatty would like to see something more closely resembling that of a program in Dallas, Texas called the Sexual Offender Apprehension Program. This focuses on monitoring sex offenders who have been released back into the community. She would also like to see more pro-active work, like Operation Blue Ridge Thunder. Here, the police officers in Bedford, Va., aggressively go online, posing as children to find pedophiles on the Internet.

Beatty has worked with Detective Wayne Promisel, a 22-year veteran with the Fairfax Police Department. He spoke about the dangers of the internet and gave some tips for keeping children safe while using the internet.

“Those people on the playground can now come into our homes through our computers,” he said. “The computer allows us to be wherever we want to be.”

ORGANIZED BY Ashley McNeff, the program was sponsored by the Fairfax County Police Department, ChildSafeNet and United States Homeland Investigations.

Guests that evening also learned the importance of background checks for safety; found out more about Neighborhood Watch and home security and personal safety; and heard about the S.A.F.E. Program (Women’s Self Defense). Also presenting that evening were MPO Greg Kottemann, crime prevention officer, Mount Vernon District Station; MPO Rich Cook, crime prevention officer, Mount Vernon District Station; and Detective Abbas “Tabby” Tabatabale.

The program was held in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Auditorium in the Mount Vernon Inn Complex at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and desserts were provided by Hollin Hall Pastry Shop.