Police, State Examine Ways to Prevent Sexual Assault of Minors
Two men are being sentenced this week for those crimes
ANCHORAGE - Two Anchorage men are being sentenced this week for sexual assaults of girls less than 13 years of age.
It’s an ongoing epidemic in which Alaska leads the nation.
It’s keeping the Crimes Against Children Unit in the Anchorage Police Department busy all the time, and it calls into question whether such perpetrators can be rehabilitated.
David Pierren has been sentenced to 29 years in prison for the rape of a six-year-old girl to whom he was a trusted family member.
On Friday, David Robbins is expected to accept a plea deal that he sexually assaulted three girls less than 13 years of age who were his neighbors – including that he raped one of them. His plea deal calls for him to serve 10 years in prison.
"He would leave candy and Mountain Dew and things like that in his house, and the kids knew that they could just come in and grab a soda or grab something to eat. He had a trampoline out front,” said APD Officer Christ Thomas
That’s called grooming children for sexual abuse, and in one case Robbins allegedly also groomed the parents by buying them groceries.
Thomas said parents need to be wary of men who have no children of their own but seem intensely interested in their children.
"And sometimes we see kids that come to us, and they will have told their parents, well, you know, so-and-so is messing with me, and it's really easy for a parent to dismiss something like that, but that might be the child's way of telling them they're being sexually abused."
When released, there's dispute about the likelihood of child molesters to re-offend.
A 2008 white paper by a UAA professor says the recidivism rates for those criminals are exaggerated.
But Thomas doesn't see it that way.
"The average person who commits sexual offenses against children does it first when they're 13. So if you can get to that child when they're 13, we have a really good – I think, the recidivism goes to about 8 percent, which is pretty fantastic, right? I mean, but with adults, I think the recidivism is much, much higher."
The incoming chair of the House Judiciary Committee agreed. "I’d like to think that rehabilitation would work, but everything I read and everything I see doesn't seem to be the case,” said Representative Wes Keller, R-Wasilla.
But whether first-time or repeated, the offenses are too many. The 2008 UAA white paper argues that the sex offender registry actually frustrates rehabilitation because the released criminals cannot reliably find work or escape harassment.
It does not address a potential alternative -- even longer prison sentences -- which Keller said would be a budget-buster for the state.