Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The sex offenders dilemma

No doubt you've all heard by now about Dean Arthur Schwartzmiller, the frequently convicted sex offender, whose abandoned diary indicates that he molested up to 36,000 children all over the Western Hemisphere. I can't even wrap my mind around these numbers, and I can't understand how he was allowed to roam free after the first one or two convictions. But that's not why I'm blogging. In an article riffing off the Schwartzmiller horror, I learned about the inadequacies of the sex offender registries:

While some authorities said it was unclear whether Schwartzmiller was required to register under the state's Megan's Law, despite his out-of-state convictions for sex offenses, about 17,800 sex offenders in California who are supposed to maintain current registration are unaccounted for, according to the attorney general. The whereabouts of these sex offenders is unknown. Although some may have died or left the state, most are presumed to be living in California, authorities said. They have either failed to re-register with police each year as required by law, or failed to re-register once they move to a new address.
As it happens, my on-line database reveals that I have four sex offenders within a five mile radius of me in my pleasantly suburban, very child-centered neighborhood. That's creepy. What's even more creepy, in a way, is what someone told me about these publicly available registries. As you may recall, in the old days, if you wanted to know if you had any neighborhood sex offenders, you had to go to the sheriff's office, show your ID, and then you'd be given access to the database. It was an inconvenient system, since most people wouldn't bother -- and then they were unpleasantly surprised to learn that the nice Mr. Smith living down the street had a record. It made sense, especially in this on-line day and age, for all the information to go public. However, I learned from someone who actually knows a sex offender, that sex offenders adore these publicly available databases, because the databases allow them to find each other, and to pool resources. In the old days, these perverts wouldn't go near the sheriff's office, so they had no way of determining whether others like them lived nearby. Now, of course, it's a piece of cake for nasty Mr. Smith to find vile Mr. Jones, and for them to gain strength for their perversions in numbers. I'm not sure what my point is here. It seems to be a no-win situation, with those children unlucky enough to get caught in these foul webs always paying the price.