After a convicted sex offender molested two young girls at a public library in Flushing, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr. are calling for a new State law to bar sex offenders from children’s reading rooms. While there are laws on the books that make it a criminal offense for a convicted sex offender to enter a playground, no such statutes protect children in public libraries. De Blasio and Vallone have put forward a City Council resolution urging the State Legislature to update the criminal code, and have sent a letter to State legislative leaders calling for immediate action.
“This problem is real, and it’s happening where parents trust their kids will be safe. A children’s reading room should be off limits for a sexual predator—just like a playground,” said Public Advocate de Blasio.
“It is common sense that we keep sexual predators away from areas where young kids congregate,” said Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr. “Children’s rooms in libraries are really indoor playgrounds for growing minds, and our kids need every protection we can give them.”
Last month, a registered sex offender approached two girls, ages 6 and 9, at the Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library and touched them inappropriately. In a similar incident last year, a middle-aged man victimized a 7 year-old girl at the Steinway branch of the Queens Public Library. De Blasio and Vallone have singled out children’s reading rooms for protection because courts have overturned prior attempts to bar sex offenders from libraries altogether.
Read Public Advocate de Blasio and Council Member Vallone’s letter to State legislative leaders below:
July 9, 2012
Honorable Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the NYS Assembly
Legislative Office Building, Room 932
Albany, NY 12248
Honorable Dean G. Skelos
Majority Leader of the NYS Senate
Legislative Office Building, Room 909
Albany, NY 12247
Dear Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos:
We write urging you to take up new legislation protecting children who use our public libraries. When parents bring their children to a local library, we trust it to be a safe environment. But a series of alarming incidents where children were sexually abused in libraries has made clear the need for stronger protections. Just last week, a registered sex offender was arrested for fondling two children, ages 6 and 9, inside a Queens Library branch in Flushing. This follows a similar incident in an Astoria library late last year. Based on conversations with library professionals and parents, we suspect these incidents often go unreported.
There are laws on the books that deter registered sex offenders from entering playgrounds, but libraries enjoy no such protections. Moreover, the courts have ruled that a broad brush policy of banning sex offenders from libraries altogether is unconstitutional. We suspect a law along these lines recently passed in the State Senate will face similar legal challenges.
Given the dangers we face as well as the limitations of the law, we urge you to pass new legislation barring registered sex offenders from delineated children’s rooms at public libraries. Entering a children’s room would constitute a criminal offense.
Today, we are putting forward a resolution in the New York City Council urging the State Legislature to pass such a bill at once. We look forward to working with you to pass a responsible, commonsense law that protects our children from the criminals who prey on them.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York
Peter F. Vallone Jr.
New York City Council Member