MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- A New York City law firm claims the Boys Scouts of America had so-called "perversion files" with names of thousands of alleged child molesters, including hundreds from our area.
Attorneys for former Scouts who claim they are victims say the Boy Scouts identified more than 7,800 alleged child molesters over the past eight decades, naming them and their victims as part of an internal investigation.
That includes 130 in New York and others in New Jersey, and they are demanding the Boy Scouts release those records.
"The alarming thing about this is not just the numbers, but the fact is that the Boy Scouts of America have never actually released these names in any form that can be known to the public," attorney Jeff Anderson said. "And they may have removed them from scouting, they may have kept them in their 'perversion files,' but they never alerted the community."
In most cases, Anderson said the alleged abusers were blocked from being Scout leaders but their identities kept secret. That allowed them to continue to be involved in other communities across the country.
The Boy Scouts of America issued the following statement:
"We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice. Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children.
Throughout our history, we have enacted strong youth protection policies to prevent future abuse, including mandatory youth protection trainings and a formal leader-selection process that includes criminal background checks. Since the 1920s, we have maintained a Volunteer Screening Database to prevent individuals accused of abuse or inappropriate conduct from joining or re-entering our programs, a practice recommended in 2007 by the Centers for Disease Control for all youth-serving organizations.
At no time have we ever knowingly allowed a perpetrator to work with youth, and we mandate that all leaders, volunteers and staff members nationwide immediately report any abuse allegation to law enforcement."
Attorneys said they don't know if any of these alleged cases were reported to police or if any of the alleged abusers have faced criminal charges, but the Boy Scouts organization insists every instance of suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement.
Officials say the database system -- called the Volunteer Screening Database, or VSD -- is one of the approaches most often recommended by experts to keep kids safe and is a collection of information on individuals who, due to past inappropriate behavior or suspicion of inappropriate behavior, are prohibited from participating in Boy Scouts of America programs.
They say the organization went back decades and reported to instances of abuse to law enforcement when it may have been unclear whether prior incidences had been reported. They say it is also worth noting that a majority of the names in the database are already available to the public through media stories or police reports.
The Boy Scouts say individuals are added to the database based on violations of policies or suspected violations of policies, and that the individuals don't need to have been convicted to be added. When an individual is added to the VSD, they are removed entirely from any Scouting program and are prohibited from re-joining anywhere.
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Boy Scouts of America has 'perversion files' listing child molesters, law firm says