Currently, Illinois requires two convictions on a charge of luring children 16 or younger before a person must register as a sex offender. A measure on Gov.Pat Quinn'sdesk would require first-time offenders join the registry.
The crime of luring involves trying to entice a minor into a car, home or building for sexual purposes.
The proposal, pushed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, is the latest to come in response to a 2010 Tribune investigation that found many would-be and successful abductors were left on the streets to re-offend rather than put behind bars or labeled as sexual offenders. The predators often threatened children or promised candy to get the youths to follow them. In some cases, children ran away after finding their solicitors committing lewd acts.
The thinking is that by requiring these criminals to register as sex offenders sooner, law enforcement officials would be able to monitor them more closely, and parents could see where they live to keep children out of harm's way, said Cara Smith, Madigan's deputy chief of staff. Luring can be a precursor to more serious crimes like sexual assault, Smith said.
"It lets (law enforcement) know who to focus resources on in their communities. But also for parents and caregivers in our state, they know who might be in their neighborhood," she said. "The attorney general feels very strongly that when we identify gaps in our system that put children at risk, that we take steps to remedy them."
The measure overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly in May. Gov.Pat Quinn'sspokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, said the bill is under review, but the governor is "certainly interested in legislation that strengthens crime prevention."
The Tribune investigation "Walking Into Danger" revealed hundreds of cases in which prosecutors failed to charge people accused of luring children or suspects were charged with lesser crimes. The newspaper found 530 police reports of attempted child abductions in Chicago and Cook County suburbs between 2008 and 2010. Prosecutors brought charges in just 30 cases, and only seven predators were sent to prison or jail.
Chicago's arrest rate proved higher in affluent census tracks with a majority-white population than it did in low-income African-American areas.
Illinois law already makes it a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison, to try to lure a child younger than 16 into a vehicle or building without the consent of the child's parent or guardian. But the paper found police, prosecutors and the courts inconsistently applied the luring law when charging and sentencing perpetrators.
For example, former Sunday school teacher Marvin Payne Jr. already had spent time in prison for sexually abusing a 7-year-old boy when he was charged in 2009 with trying to lure a 15-year-old West Side boy into his car. Payne posed as a high school basketball coach looking to recruit players.
In the end, he pleaded guilty to stalking — not luring — and received a sentence of 24 months of probation. The 15-year-old victim's grandmother, Laura McDonald, said she couldn't believe Payne wasn't incarcerated or at least sentenced to a specialized sex offender probation.
While on probation, Payne was charged with child abduction and other offenses after authorities accused him of luring another 15-year-old boy into his car and offering money to perform sex acts. Prosecutors had to drop those charges because a judge ruled police had no lawful reason to stop Payne's car.
Another bill, passed and signed into law last year, closed loopholes in state statutes by more explicitly defining luring as part of child abduction. Previously, Illinois law didn't define child abduction as a sex crime. But last year's change requires sex-offender evaluations for those convicted of child abduction and aims to make it more likely repeat offenders would go to prison.