There's certainly a compelling case to be made for adding criminal penalties to Maryland's child abuse reporting law, as recently suggested by state Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican. For one, it would send a clear message that those who witness abuse and fail to report it — or worse, deliberately cover it up — are culpable, not just those who actually commit such crimes. It might also give people who would rather not get involved in the messy process of a child abuse investigation a reason to overcome their reluctance to implicate a neighbor, acquaintance or family member. Such people could tell themselves they had no choice but to act or face criminal prosecution themselves. Given that 90 percent of child victims are abused by people they know, that could be a powerful incentive for witnesses to step forward.