Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Protecting our children

Every summer, the news channels need a story for their focus.
Last year it was Chandra Levy; this year it was child

While abductions and murders are declining, the headlines on
these crimes are likely the result of the 24-hour news channels’
need to fill their schedules with stories that will drive

While during the Clinton perjury scandal we had too much focus
on one story, the focus on child abductions has been a necessary
and beneficial one.


Each year, approximately 114,600 stranger abductions are
attempted, with around 4,000 successful abductions. The FBI says
the number of “stereotypical” outside-the-family abduction cases in
2001 — defined as where a child is gone overnight, transported
over some distance, and intended to be kept by the perpetrator or
killed — were down from 115 cases in 1998 to 93.

Ninety-three families losing a child from abductions is too
great a number. Violent acts against children take many forms;
sexual abuse, kidnapping, and murder are the most serious

Thanks to former governor and current Health and Human Services
secretary Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin has some of the harshest
penalties against people who sexually abuse a child.

Under Wisconsin’s “two strikes, you’re out” law, any person
convicted of a second sexual assault against a child is sentenced
to life in prison without the possibility of parole. No questions,
no debate. Two convictions and you’re spending the rest of your
natural life locked up behind bars.

Unfortunately, many states have laws much more lenient than
Wisconsin’s. Wisconsin is a leader in dealing with criminals who
sexually abuse children. However, this is where Wisconsin’s
leadership ends.

The AMBER alert system is a voluntary partnership between
law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an urgent
bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of
this plan is to instantly alert the entire community and encourage
them to assist in the search for a missing child.

Currently, 16 states have the AMBER Plan in effect statewide.
This plan has saved over 25 children thus far, with its latest
successes this summer in California. Madison and Green Bay have
adopted AMBER, but the entire state has yet to act.

We need to call on Gov. McCallum to follow in Thompson’s
footsteps and fight to protect children. McCallum has shown he
wants children to have a bright future by protecting the K-12
education in the recently passed budget, but he must go

He must call on state legislators to protect children from
stranger abductions. Children don’t need good schools if we haven’t
protected them so they can attend school.

Finally, it is time for the state of Wisconsin to take child
murderers more seriously.

Look at five-year-old Samantha Runnion. She was playing with a
friend in her yard when Alejandro Avila grabbed her, sexually
assaulted her, murdered her and left her on the side of the road,
naked. DNA evidence and a false alibi are among the many pieces of
evidence that will certainly lead to a guilty verdict for Avila.
Samantha was innocent.

This was a cold-hearted murder.

In a recent poll conducted by the research firm Opinion
Dynamics, 71 percent of Americans say they favor making the death
penalty mandatory for anyone found guilty of murdering a child. It
is time for the Legislature, behind Gov. McCallum’s leadership, to
act. The politicians at the state Capitol have not done enough to
protect the children of this state.

Children are precious. They are our hope and future. We must
protect them from terrorism, abuse and murder. We must punish
anyone who commits these evil crimes with the ultimate penalty —

Matt Modell ([email protected]) is a senior majoring
in journalism and political science.
He is in Washington, D.C.,
this semester for an internship.

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