Schumer, in Canandaigua, takes aim at online blackmail

Canandaigua Middle School student Neil Stringer is in agreement with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer on this issue:

Something needs to be done to end online and social media predatory blackmailing, in which someone creates social media accounts; friends students in order to obtain personal photos, money and personal data; and then threatens students to share what they obtained unless more data is provided.

“This is a terrible crime,” the eighth-grader said, shortly after Schumer spoke at Canandaigua Academy about his support for legislation that would make this a federal crime. “I would hate to think of my peers being victimized like this.”

Students in the Canandaigua school district and others in Wayne, Monroe and Yates counties in December were victimized by such a predator.

Schumer, who was joined at the press conference Friday by Canandaigua Superintendent Jamie Farr, Mayor Ellen Polimeni and Police Chief Stephen Hedworth, called for an end to the crime committed by these “horrible people.”

“This is a despicable thing,” Schumer said. “It will grow if we do nothing about it.”

Schumer is calling on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to use resources to help districts like Canandaigua that have been victimized and to help other districts be prepared before it happens.

A few states have made this a crime, but Schumer said he supports legislation that would make this a federal crime, enabling the FBI to investigate and track down the perpetrators who more than likely live outside the immediate area and state — and as some fear, outside the country.

“Who knows where they are?” Schumer said. “We want to expose them, go after them, arrest them and get rid of them.”

The legislation would make this form of blackmail a class A felony, and someone convicted of it would face a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

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