A new Indiana law aims to prevent people from grooming children for sexual activity.

The law allows a parent or guardian to obtain a restraining order against a person they believe may be attempting to start sexual contact with a child.

Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said a common example of sexual grooming involves online communications between the child and a potential abuser.

“This provides a way for parents to prevent individuals from instant messaging their children (or) contacting them, if they are uncomfortable with the way that interaction is going on,” he said.

In a disturbing development this month, the Garrett Police Department has arrested four area men — from three local counties — on felony charges of child solicitation.

A Garrett Police officer set up a Facebook page, posing as a 14-year-old girl. Each of the four suspects allegedly made online contact with what they believed was an underage girl and talked her into meeting for sexual activity. Police arrested each man when he showed up at an address he believed to be the home of the girl.

Police said even more men contacted the fake girl online, but only four traveled to meet with her, going far enough to justify arresting them.

All of that activity took place over a period of only two weeks, which should serve as a wake-up call to parents to keep track of their children’s activities online.

Of course, girls are not the only children under threat. Boys can be targets of predators, too.

Mull said the first thing parents should do if they believe someone is having inappropriate communications with a child — online or otherwise — is to call police and start an investigation.

If parents know the suspected person’s name, they can go to court and file a restraining order to try to prevent further communication — even before the police investigation is complete.

The new state law removes some of the barriers to protective orders that have been in place over the last several years.

“In years past, it used to be easier for citizens to get protective orders against other people who were harassing them or their family,” Mull said. “This bill is a step in the right direction.”

Regional money spent well

Four years ago, northeast Indiana became one of two regions in the state to begin the Regional Cities Initiative.

A board of leaders from the region was given $42 million to spend on “quality of place” projects to make northeast Indiana a more appealing place to live.

Board members set out to get the most mileage from the money — by not paying for entire projects, but helping projects that had additional sources of funding.

They seem to have chosen wisely. The $42 million has contributed to 24 projects that invested a total of $258 million — six times the original amount.

Six of those projects are in our four-county northeast corner area of the state. The board granted $8.5 million in Regional Cities money to those projects and also found it multiplied six times. The total value of those six projects tops $51 million.

The Regional Cities grants to the four-county region included:

• improvements at Trine University in Angola — $2.8 million;

• a soccer and outdoor sports complex at the YMCA of DeKalb County in Auburn — $947,000;

• the Michiana Event Center in LaGrange County — $3.96 million;

• the Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail in Ligonier — $248,920;

• Fishing Line Trail in Noble County — $171,500; and

• The Kendallville Outdoor Recreation Center — $392,000.

Each of those projects should give its community returns that will last for many years to come.

OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers’ comments.

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