Cybersex seizure proposal draws praise from law enforcement, criticism from nudists

Posted: Thursday, February 22, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A proposal to allow the seizure of property used in cybersex crimes drew acclaim from law enforcement officials and opposition from a quarter not often heard from in Alaska -- nudists.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Joe Hayes, D-Fairbanks, is intended to seize computers used in sex crimes, indecent viewing or photography and child pornography, and give them to police for use in fighting such crimes. Hayes said the bill would provide police new hardware to keep up with advancing technology.

''As more and more states pass forfeiture legislation it is becoming increasingly obvious that this is a useful and valuable tool in the fight against computer crimes,'' Hayes said Wednesday at a hearing on the bill in the House Judiciary Committee.

Law enforcement officials from Fairbanks and Anchorage supported the measure.

''I think it's a very, very good way to go back at the offenders in an effective manner,'' Fairbanks Police Chief James Welch said. ''And it sends a message we will not tolerate it.''

But wording in the legislation drew concern from members of the committee. There was also opposition from an unexpected quarter: a Wisconsin-based association of nudists called the Naturist Action Committee.

''House Bill 32 represents itself as addressing sex criminals,'' the organization's chairman wrote in a letter. ''However, in its present form, it would clearly punish skinny dippers as well.''

The group's concern focused on wording in the bill that allows the forfeiture of property used in indecent exposure.

House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz said he failed to understand what property would be forfeited by skinny dipping.

''That's sort of the point of skinny dipping,'' Berkowitz said. ''There's no property involved whatsoever.''

The nudists' objections was the source of some amusement, but committee members did ask Hayes to rework the language of the bill and perhaps look at the indecent exposure issue.

I think we should limit the property that to electronic-type property,'' said Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, the committee chairman. ''That's what the thrust of the bill is.''

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