Editorial - March 4, 2005

Point reporter M. Patricia Titus wrote a story in this week’s paper regarding the community reaction in a few local towns to registered sex offenders living in the area. The concerned reaction by citizens is predictable and understandable.

The reaction by a local police chief is perhaps less predictable — yet fully commendable.

Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin said the availability of information on registered sex offenders, courtesy of “Megan’s Law,” is certainly valuable to the public, but it is also important to remember that the system isn’t completely perfect in one aspect — the exact nature of the crime is not as readily available.

For example, an individual who might have been a teenager and engaged in sexual relations with his girlfriend, who was a few years younger, could have been turned in to the authorities by the girl’s parents. That individual would then be classified as a registered sex offender on the Web site, the same as a person who molested young children.

That’s dangerous.

While we’re certainly not condoning witch hunts or violent responses to any individual who has payed his or her debt to society, we also feel there is a need to separate the natures of the crimes these offenders are forever linked. Yes, we know, individuals should be afforded some sense of privacy, but is there any real harm with separating the crimes by easier allowing access to the true nature of the crimes?

Homeland Security can tell us how dangerous each specific day in our life is by classifying it according to a color code. Can’t we do the same with the nature of crime a registered sex offender has been convicted for, at least to notify residents of a community as to the level of danger this individual might pose to the children or others?

This entire system is supposed to be about identifying who might be a threat to the community. At this point, the system might be a threat to an individual by a community.

Parents, use this system to be informed on who could potentially pose a threat to your children. It is a resource that just wasn’t always available in years past. But remember it does have holes before considering a definitive course of action.