ABILENE, Texas - An Abilene police detective is working with State Rep. Susan King to create stricter penalties for sex offenders.
The bill, HB 1010, seeks to charge sexual predators before they are able to sexually abuse a child.
Detective Eric Vickers joined Rep. King in Austin this week to testify about the need for this new bill.
Vickers said his time working for the Criminal Investigations Department opened his eyes to a huge gap when it comes to prosecuting sexual predators.
"It goes from basically a charge that's a speeding ticket for offensively touching a child, to a felony for sexually assaulting or committing a sexual offense against a child," Vickers said.
Vickers said more than 90 percent of offenders know their victims and because of that he realized something needed to be done.
"Sometimes we catch the offender, the predator, before they're actually able to sexually assault the child, but when we do that, when we catch them before, there's basically no punishment for the grooming techniques that they do under current state law. So, what we're seeking to do is to try to prevent sexual assault by making it a harsher penalty for some of these grooming tactics," Vickers said.
Vickers worked with King to increase penalties for sexual "grooming."
"What that means is that the adult builds a rapport with the child, builds trust with the child prior to committing sexual abuse, trying to lower the child's inhibitions slowly, over time, it leads to sexual abuse," said Vickers.
Grooming is currently a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500. This new bill would increase it to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine.
Vickers said there will be a clear line between those charged with grooming and family members who are expressing their love.
"This law definitely does not seek to put parents in jail for hugging their kids or grandparents in jail for loving on their kids. That's not what this seeks to do," said Vickers.
Find a map of registered sex offenders in your area here.
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