What about security from misplaced sex offenders?
The other night during his speech on how he plans to chop into the state’s $35 billion budget deficit, Gov. Gray Davis mentioned something about Homeland Security, the new buzz term designed to make us all feel safe and cozy in our homeland.
And while it’s nice to feel safe and cozy, knowing that someone is protecting our homeland from terrorists, nobody seems to be protecting us from California’s registered sex offenders.
An Associated Press investigation published last week found that California does not know the whereabouts of at least 33,296 sex offenders, or 44 percent of the 76,000 who registered at least once since 1946.
In the wake of the 1994 rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a known child molester who had moved in across the street from her New Jersey home, the federal government enacted the Megan’s Law database, requiring each state to use it to track registered sex offenders.
Its purpose is to provide pertinent information to law enforcement and, in appropriate circumstances, to neighbors, parents and children, as well as community organizations where children are supervised or where women are being cared for. Armed with knowledge of the description and whereabouts of sex offenders, community members are, in theory, better positioned to protect their children and themselves.
Unfortunately, the accuracy of the database assumes the sexual criminals will help keep it updated. A condition of parole or probation requires them to notify law enforcement when they move. Obviously, many are choosing not to. Especially the ones who enjoy preying on women and children.
“We don’t know where they are,” a woman who recently ran the state’s sex offender registry told reporters.
And now we hear it may take $15 million to $20 million more to really keep tabs on them at a time when California doesn’t have a dime to spare. Especially when we’re spending so much on Homeland Security. The feds don’t know where Osama is, either, and he’s not even registered.
Feeling safer yet?
As far as we can determine, Nevada County is relatively certain where its registered sex criminals are these days. At least the ones it’s responsible for. The county has 114 registered offenders and only one of them is missing.
That’s not to say that some of the 33,000 or so missing sex criminals statewide can’t be hiding out here.
“It needs to be fixed,” Barbara Alby, the former assmblywoman from Sacramento who wrote Megan’s Law in 1994, told the San Francisco Chronicle last week. She wasn’t referring to the sexual criminals’ need to be “fixed,” but rather the system. “The system is just not working. It really has been a disappointment,” she said.
Disappointment would be a good term to describe the likelihood that 33,000 unaccounted for registered sex criminals have joined the thousands of unregistered sex criminals on the loose in California.
Frightening would also be an appropriate adjective.
In his state-of-the-state last week, our governor boasted California’s ability to provide cutting-edge technology in the fight against terrorism. If you think Silicon Valley’s hard drives are cool, wait until you see their digital exploding dog collars.
Come to think of it, some “cutting edge” technology might be just what the doctor ordered for some of our repeat sex offenders. Once we find them.
“In the months that followed Sept. 11, no state in America did more to protect its people and vital assets,” Davis told those eager to hear how he planned to tackle the $35,000,000,000 state deficit (I thought it best to show the numerical sequence of such a large number after screwing up last week when I incorrectly referred to the deficit as merely a $35 million problem. My mind goes blank after seven consecutive zeros).
The governor didn’t say exactly what he did to protect us and our vital assets that was so much better than any other state did after Sept. 11. Perhaps he assigned a security guard to Steven Spielberg.
The governor went on to say he was establishing a new, permanent state Office of Homeland Security that will, according to Davis, allow us to “coordinate security activities throughout California,” and, “underscore how California can lead the way in keeping America safe.”
Until then, maybe California can practice its homeland security technique on the 33,000 registered sex offenders it seems to have lost. If we can’t find guys we have fingerprints, last known addresses and photographs of, how are we supposed to find a bunch of terrorists we’ve never met?
Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The Union. His column appears every Tuesday.
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