Growing numbers of victim advocates and criminal justice researchers are concluding that sex offender registries are too costly and provide little or no protection to the public, reports the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “The registry gives the appearance that our community is safer, but we really question whether it lives up to that expectation,” said Sondra Miller, president of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. Sex offender registries gained popularity after the 1994 rape and murder of Megan Kanka, 7, by a neighbor in New Jersey. “Megan’s Law” was followed a decade later by the Adam Walsh Act, named for a 6-year-old boy who was abducted and murdered in Florida. Ohio began registering sex offenders in 1997. Today, 19,400 sex offenders are registered statewide.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department tracks an estimated 3,300 sex offenders at an annual cost of $675,000. That includes registering sex offenders, sending out fliers warning neighbors that an offender moved into the area, and tracking offenders who fail to report. Proponents of registries say the goal is to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods and, by extension, help keep people and their children safe. That’s especially important for victims of sexual assault, according to Janine Deccola, a victim’s advocate with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. The knowledge that an offender is being tracked helps victims “find a sense of safety or comfort” after a harrowing experience.