Cooper praises Assembly for fighting crime, protecting consumers
Release date: 9/2/2005
Raleigh: Several bills voted into law during the General Assembly’s latest session will help to fight crime, make communities safer and protect consumers, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.
“Our laws needed to be strengthened to fight the new ways criminals have found to endanger our communities,” said Cooper. “By cutting off the easy supplies to meth cooks we can reduce the number of explosive drug labs hidden away across the state. Now, sex offenders who use the computer to lure children will know we’ll find them and stop them. And identity thieves will be blocked from quick access to our personal financial information. I commend legislators for working to stop these threats.”
Several items championed by Cooper won approval during the recent legislative session:
• Preventing meth labs by cutting access to key ingredients (House Bill 248*)
Cooper led the push to place stricter controls on the critical ingredients needed to make the illegal drug methamphetamine. This new law will fight the spread of dangerous meth labs in North Carolina by limiting access to pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, commonly found in over-the-counter cold remedies but also used to make meth in homemade labs.
North Carolina’s meth problem has grown steadily worse over the past few years. In 1999, the first year that meth labs were reported in North Carolina, SBI agents discovered 9 labs. That number has skyrocketed, with agents shutting down 322 labs in 2004 and more than 251 so far this year. Since placing controls on key meth ingredients, other states such as Oklahoma and Tennessee have seen a significant drop in the number of meth labs.
• Cutting down on identity theft (Senate Bill 1048)
Cooper proposed the Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005 to make it harder for identity thieves to access consumers’ personal information. The measure will minimize the use of Social Security Numbers as identification numbers, enhance protections for SSNs by both businesses and government, give consumers the right to protect themselves by placing a freeze on their credit report, require businesses that are disposing of sensitive customer records to destroy those records, and require businesses to notify their customers if a security breach may have compromised their personal information.
• Tracking down Internet predators who target children (Senate Bill 472)
Cooper asked legislators to enact the Child Exploitation Prevention Act to help investigators catch online predators before they can hurt children. The new law makes it a felony for an Internet predator to solicit anyone, including an undercover officer, he or she believes to be a child. The measure also requires convicted online predators to be added to the state’s Sex Offender Registry and to provide DNA samples for the state’s database of convicted offender DNA. Cooper has written to Sheriffs and chiefs of police across the state urging them to use the new law and to work with the SBI’s Computer Crimes Unit to track down Internet predators.
The new law is coupled with Cooper’s work to help parents and teachers keep children safe from online predators and other threats on the Internet. To give North Carolina parents the tools they need to protect their children online, Cooper partnered with law enforcement and child safety experts to develop a video and resource guide for parents. The video and guide, entitled “Internet Safety: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Child,” are available to parents along with other resources at www.ncdoj.com (select “Internet Safety” from the Jump To menu at the top of the page).
• Helping the SBI fight crime and solve more cases
Cooper had asked for and legislators approved funding for six analysts and one technician for the SBI Crime Lab’s DNA unit. These analysts will focus on getting convicted offenders’ DNA into the state’s database and providing DNA analysis more quickly to keep solving rapes, murders and other violent crimes, including cold cases. Legislators also included Cooper’s request for six chemists and two chemistry technicians in the Crime Lab to analyze evidence from meth busts and other drug crimes. Cooper also won funding for four out of seven new positions he requested for the SBI Computer Crimes Unit, including two new field agents to partner with the national Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and two new computer forensic experts to recover information from computers submitted to the Crime Lab. While these additional positions will help, they do not address the full range of challenges facing the SBI. Cooper plans to ask legislators next year to continue investing in crime-fighting tools to help law enforcement keep our communities safe.