Nevada's 1997 sex offender law is failling short of its promise to heighten public awareness of predatory criminals victimizing women and children, an investigation by the Reno Gazette-Journal found. Megan's laws – ordered by federal mandates after the 1994 assault and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a sex offender living near her in New Jersey – have been strengthened by many states in recent years.
Nevada's version is languishing. Among the Gazette-Journal’s conclusions:
* The public is notified of a small percentage of the state's nearly 5,000 known sex offenders, and authorities don't know the whereabouts of nearly 40 percent of the state's sex criminals. Authorities say out-of-state sex offenders are converging on Nevada because of its reputation for lax enforcement of registration and notification laws.
* While other states force offenders to register and post their addresses on Web sites, Nevada only recently launched a Web site – and only because a private group paid for it. Offenders' locations are identified only by ZIP code.
* Nevada law doesn't allow agencies to share information about 70 percent of Nevada's registered sex offenders. Residents, schools, day-care centers, and other places where children congregate never will be told where those 3,249 sex offenders are living.
* Nevada relies on sex offenders voluntarily reporting when they move. The location of 21 of 50 high-risk offenders is unknown because even high-risk offenders are trusted to notify authorities when they move.