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As part of a comprehensive effort to crack down on cyber predators, state officials are looking to expand an existing law that bans child pornography.

According to state Attorney General Chris Porrino, it’s illegal to possess or distribute child pornography, but it is not illegal to possess or distribute what is known as child erotica, where an image depicts a child in a suggestive manner.

“The difference is child pornography, by statute, requires that the child be either in a sex act or naked, but if a child is shown in a sexually suggestive pose partially clothed, that is not technically child pornography. It falls within this area of what we call child erotica,” he said.

“We believe a legislative change is appropriate.”

Porrino explained his office is working to enact new legislation that will treat child erotica the same way child porn is handled.

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“Right now the law stipulates if you distribute or have in your possession 25 or more files for distribution of child pornography you’re exposed to a second-degree offense. We would, under this proposed legislative fix, add images or files of child erotica to that number,” he said.

“We’ll be working with the legislature and the governor’s office to affect the change. It’s not complex, it’s simply a definition.”

He explained what will happen is “an image or a file that is considered child erotica will then be counted toward the offense that you’re charged with as it relates to child pornography.”

Porrino stressed this kind of change is very important because “it is often a continuum where someone starts on child erotica, moves to child pornography and then is seeking something more.”

He said individuals interested in this “type of filth often go onto social media websites that provide opportunities for the predators to appear, affectively anonymously, to lure children in and to satiate their desire to abuse young kids.”

When asked how specifically child erotica will be defined, Porrino making this kind of change has already been done federally and in other states.

“So there is a blueprint to work off of, statutes that have withstood challenge,” he said.

Porrino doesn't think the law would affect innocent images or pictures of children.

“We’re looking to criminalize conduct that is exploitive of children, as opposed to a simple ad in a magazine where a child may be depicted in a bathing suit.”

Porrino said his Office is moving ahead with this plan quickly.

“The area of child exploitation, child pornography, sexual assault of children, is an area of real emphasis and focus for us,” he said.

The attorney general added that cyber predators should know “we’re watching, and if you are possessing or distributing child pornography, chances are we know about it. The question is when are we coming, and we’ll get there. If you are engaged in this kind of conduct and you think no one is watching, you are wrong because we are.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.