Act Quickly Against Sexual Predators

Law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys in this area tend to act immediately when they hear of children being abused. Apparently that is not the case everywhere.

Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is serving what amounts to a life sentence in prison. In 2012, Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys. It is likely there were other victims.

But the authorities in Pennsylvania had been tipped off to Sandusky’s crimes at least three years before charges were filed.

A report released this week by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane outlines why Sandusky escaped punishment for so long. There were “communication problems,” the loss of a 1998 complaint against Sandusky and what Kane termed “an inexcusable lack of urgency …”

Kane has said her office knows of two boys who were victimized by Sandusky in 2009 – after an investigation began. Prosecutors who handled his trial dispute that, however.

But whether Sandusky actually abused boys after the investigation began is not the central question. It is, instead, why investigators and prosecutors did not expedite their work in the knowledge Sandusky might take advantage of a delay by victimizing others.

Criminal investigations can be time-consuming. It is not unusual for probes into illegal drug dealing to take many months. The same goes for looking into allegations of financial wrongdoing such as embezzlement.

But sexual assault, especially when children are involved, is different.

Again, local police and prosecutors tend to act quickly in such situations. They should continue to do so – or be prepared to explain why children were not protected from adult predators.