Iowans are no closer to knowing where dangerous sexual predators live, despite huge amounts of time, money, and political rhetoric spent on better tracking them over the past year, reports the Des Moines Register. Authorities cannot find twice as many sex offenders since a state law went into effect last year banning offenders from living near child care centers, and schools. As of last week, 298 of more than 6,000 sex offenders statewide were unaccounted for by law enforcement vs. 142 on June 1, 2005. The number of missing offenders – roughly 1 in 20 now, vs. 1 in 46 before the state’s 2,000-foot law went into effect – is a conservative count, police say. It does not include offenders who lie about their whereabouts, those who no longer register, or those who have moved into the state undetected.
Law enforcement officials said the gap in the offenders’ whereabouts underscores the myriad problems associated with the 2,000-foot law. Among the most troublesome: The measure affects only where offenders sleep, not whom they come in contact with. It does not affect thousands of offenders who were “grandfathered in” and continue to live near children. And it treats low-level offenders as seriously as it does the worst predators. Officials say the law is creating a new population of people who are homeless, while encouraging others to lie and say that they are. Des Moines Police Chief William McCarthy echoed many peers, saying he fears political cowardice will stop state legislators from overhauling the well-intentioned measure. He said the law has only sapped resources while giving the public a false sense of improved safety.