California Republican legislative leader Dave Cox complains about the lack of information available to the public on sex offenders, the Los Angeles Times reports. When Cox checked at a sheriff’s office on the state database of 80,000 offenders, he couldn’t see addresses for the 45 in his ZIP code in suburbs east of Sacramento; he could see only photos, aliases, physical descriptions and offenses. “The records, as currently assembled, lack any specificity,” he said
Today, the California Assembly meets to discuss the state version of Megan’s Law, which provides public access to the sex offender database. During the session that ended two weeks ago, the legislataure failed to prevent the expiration of Megan’s Law on Jan. 1. A bill up for consideration today would extend it until 2007.
Minority Republicans want to put the database on the Internet, so that a viewer doesn’t have to visit a police station, and they to locate the convicted sex offenders by address – two changes that have been blocked by liberal Democrats. No bills can be amended without action by the Senate, which will not return until January.
In several cases, California men have been forced to move because of outcries after police notified neighbors that high-risk sex offenders were living nearby. Under a part of Megan’s Law not in danger of expiring, police can knock on doors and post fliers to alert citizens of sex offenders who they believe pose high risks.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Scott has mixed feelings: “As a citizen, I want to know exactly where they live. As a law enforcement officer, I’m a little concerned, because we still have to protect everyone in this county, whether they’re child molesters just released from prison or upstanding citizens who never got so much as a parking ticket.”
As of February, 35 states and the District of Columbia posted sex offender registries on Web sites. Some, like Florida, give exact addresses of registrants. Other registries, such as Chicago’s, disclose just the first two numbers of a street address and the street, so viewers can determine the block where a registrant lives.
American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist Francisco Lobaco argues that Internet posting fails to distinguish between criminals who pose future dangers and those who don’t. The ACLU wants courts to determine each sex offender’s potential for breaking the law again. Only those deemed to be risks should have to register with police every year for the rest of their lives, he says.