Legislation that would provide stronger penalties for people who leave children alone in vehicles has been introduced by Senator Tommy Tomlinson and Representative Gene DiGirolamo.
At a news conference today in Bensalem, the lawmakers said they will introduce bills in the Senate and House to make it a third-degree felony to leave a child under age 13 in a motor vehicle without adult supervision. A third degree felony can result in a prison term of 3 ½ to 7 years and a fine of up to $15,000. Under current law, leaving a child unattended is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
They said the measure is needed to serve as a strong deterrent for gamblers who visit casinos and leave children behind in the parking lot. During the past summer, there have been several incidents when adults left children unattended in the parking lot at Parx Casino.
“The public needs to understand that there are serious safety risks to children who are left in unattended vehicles,” Tomlinson said. “This bill will send a message that irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated and that offenders will face strong penalties.”
Tomlinson and DiGirolamo noted that Parx Casino has been cooperative and aggressive in combating these incidents. The casino has increased patrols, worked with Bensalem police to step up police presence, and established sanctions against offending customers.
The legislators said their legislation would provide casinos and law enforcement officials with even more effective enforcement tools. They said that apart from the role of law enforcement, monies are available for social services, including issues related to gambling. Additional money was provided in the latest legislation for drug, alcohol and gambling addiction treatment.
“It is unconscionable to me that parents will intentionally leave their children alone in their cars in parking lots at a local casino,” DiGirolamo said. “While we cannot legislate proper parenting, we can put tough laws on the books to provide serious punishments for those who are willing to put their children in harm’s way.”