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N.Y. state senator's video shows parents how to snoop on their kids

By the CNN Wire Staff
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State senator: Spy on your kids
  • Senator posts YouTube video showing how to search one's home for drugs, guns
  • On it, he says, "There are no First Amendment rights inside your household"
  • A youth rights leader says such searches could undermine parent-child trust

New York (CNN) -- A New York state senator defended an "informational video" he posted Monday, which teaches parents how best to snoop on their children -- a message that the head of a leading youth rights group criticized as dangerous.

State Sen. Eric Adams, who served 22 years on the New York City police force before being elected in 2006, put the controversial YouTube video on his official website Monday. It is part of what he described as a "multimedia initiative," which also includes billboards around the city, "to call for an end to gun violence."

In the video, the senator checks pillows, behind pictures, inside jewelry boxes and a doll's clothes inside his home, only to find hidden handguns, bullets, a crack pipe and a bag of what appears to be marijuana. His message is that evidence of trouble could be anywhere, and that it is parents' duty to check on their children and search their rooms, even if they object.

"You write the Constitution: There are no First Amendment rights (of free speech) inside your household," Adams says in the video.

Yet Alex Koroknay-Palicz, executive director of the National Youth Rights Association, said Adams' message, which quickly caused a buzz in New York and beyond, is off target and potentially perilous if parents follow through.

The biggest risk of poking around a child's room, he said, is breaking down that same child's trust.

"Rifling through their stuff isn't going to make (children) any safer," said Koroknay-Palicz. "It's just going to drive them away from their parents and away from their home."

The director of the Washington-based group, which boasts 10,000 members in chapters at high schools and colleges in all 50 states, also questioned why Adams chose to send his message now. On HLN, the group's 17-year-old president, Jeffrey Nadal, said that statistics showed 2009 was "the safest year in the country in terms of crime" and drug use has fallen sharply in the last three decades.

"There's no great crisis that this is responding to: Crime has plummeted over the last 30 years, as has drug use," said Koroknay-Palicz. "(Kids now) are actually safer than their parents were growing up."

But Adams, in an interview Monday with HLN's Vinnie Politan, defended the video. He insisted that there has been more than enough unnecessary gun violence involving young people in recent years, and that steps need to be taken.

"I'm an adult, I have an obligation and a responsibility not to look to stats to try to beautify or to give a dream environment," said Adams.

"Guns are killing our inner cities. Some parents won't have to do this, fine, but those that do, there's a YouTube video that will help them."

The video begins with Adams outside his Brooklyn, New York, home, alluding to a recent shooting nearby, holding up a bulletproof vest and urging people to "join me in this crusade of removing illegal handguns off our streets." He then goes inside, promising to "show you how to search a room."

Besides looking for signs a child is using drugs or has a gun, Adams said such searches are needed to ensure the safety of anyone else in the house. At one point, he holds up a gun and states that a youngster might find it, think it's a toy, turn it so the barrel is facing them and shoot.

"Expect your children to do what's right, but you also have to inspect what you expect," he says in the video. "That's the key to preventive safety."

The video is not Adams' first slightly unconventional initiative as it relates to gun use. In another YouTube video, from May 2008 and set at the state capital in Albany, New York, he pitches an idea -- with a working prop included -- to have cameras installed on police firearms.

Speaking Monday on HLN, Adams said he was inspired to do his latest video, in part, by a woman in his district who told him that, after her son was arrested for selling drugs from their house, she looked in his room and found drug paraphernalia and a firearm.

This kind of story, he said, shows the value of parents being proactive to protect their household, claiming this responsibility trumps whatever rights their offspring might claim.

The senator said he takes his own advice, with his son joining him when he searches the boy's room.

"When I go through my son's room, he participates with me, and he understands that when he enters the house, everything that comes in my house is up to being searched and looked at," Adams said.

CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report