Mount Pleasant mayor wants closer look at child luring laws after recent incidents

Published: Oct. 18, 2018 at 7:41 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - After at least two reports of child luring in Mount Pleasant in the past year, town leaders are taking a closer look the issue.

Right now, there’s not a clear-cut law that makes approaching a child a criminal act in South Carolina, especially in a case like one that happened on Oct. 6.

Tara Cessna says her son and his friend were approached by a man in a white U-Haul pickup truck.

A police report states the man asked the boys if they wanted to get into his truck because he had just bought a new bucket of gum.

Cessna said she initially thought her son was overreacting as he described the encounter, but she soon began to realize just how serious the situation was.

The incident happened near the Planters Pointe neighborhood off Highway 41. Cessna said she contacted the Mount Pleasant Police Department and an officer took a report with her over the phone.

However, three days later, Cessna called Mount Pleasant police again when her son saw the same truck in their neighborhood.

Officers were able to find the man behind the interaction. According to a police report, he admitted to speaking with the boys, stopping to tell them they were good skateboarders and offer them a piece of gum.

However, the man wasn’t charged.

Instead, the officer advised him that he should never offer anything to kids he doesn’t know because “that could be very weird.”

“It sends chills down anybody’s spine when we hear about that, and I just want to say our law enforcement has been on top of any recent case and maybe one prior,” Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie said. “They have investigated it and done what they are allowed to do within the full scope of the law.”

Cessna echoed that the law may be the issue with why it’s difficult to hold someone accountable for this type of interaction.

“I was told if they don’t physically touch them or get them into the car then there’s nothing they can do,” Cessna said she was told by law enforcement.

A group of lawmakers introduced a bill in February that would make luring or enticing a child to get into a car or a building against the law, but it never made it to the governor’s desk.

There are plans to refile it when the legislative session starts back.

“We want to know what we could do locally to make that law as strong as it can be to keep our children safe,” Haynie said. “We also want to be where they actually get people who are a threat instead of wasting time on people who may be mistaken to be a threat.”

Haynie said he is putting this issue on the town’s next Police, Legal and Judicial Committee agenda.

He wants to take a deeper look at the concerns over child luring and what tools law enforcement officers may they need to hold people accountable.

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