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Schumer urges federal background check access for youth groups

U.S. Department of Justice

Federal law prevents children’s organizations from gaining access to FBI sex offender background checks on new employees and volunteers. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said he will push for legislation that will make the FBI sex offender database available to youth groups.“It’s estimated that there are about 15 million adults nationwide who volunteer to work with kids, either in education or in youth programs,” said Schumer, in a conference call Wednesday. “But unfortunately, and here’s the rub and here’s what we’re trying to prevent, current law prevents the summer camps, children organizations, non-for-profits, church groups from having more access to the FBI sex offender checks on new employees and volunteers, and it creates real danger.”

Schumer says the current law can put children at risk.

“Most summer camps, most children’s groups, church groups, volunteer organizations only have access to the New York State criminal database,” said Schumer. “But New York is not one of the very few states the allows them access to FBI sex offender records. So that means they’re limited to in-state records, and we know that sex offenders – once they’re convicted and serve time in one state – travel to another.”

There are over 17,000 registered sex offenders in Upstate New York as of June 2017 according to the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Service, 2,752 of whom live in Western New York.

Schumer gave an example of a mistake in the past that he hopes his peers will consider when choosing on whether or not to pass this bill.

“There was a high-profile case a few years ago in the southern tier,” said Schumer. “A man was convicted on 14 counts of abuse, despite the fact that it was found 40 years earlier he’d been abusing children, he became a soccer coach, a church counselor, a boy scout leader. And these cases are numerous, and we all know that the sex offenders always try to find new jobs in new places where they can be near children. So it’s not that it just happens by happenstance.”

Schumer said as a parent, he understands how nerve-racking it can be for parents to leave their children in the care of someone else. He said he believes the bill would help ease parents' worries. 

“The bill would facilitate widespread to nationwide background searches,” said Schumer. “It will require the attorney general to establish a process to run state and federal sex offender background checks on perspective employees, and streamline the process of sending fingerprints submissions to the FBI for a background check.”

Schumer said he has still urged his colleagues to pass the bipartisan legislation immediately.

“I think sometimes the feds don’t want to go out of their way to participate, some people have privacy concerns. But none of those measure up,” said Schumer. “We ought to pass it.”