I don't know how long this link will be active, but I would like you to leave a comment (if you are up to it) at the bottom of the article by clicking 'opinions' at the end.
there is one line that kind of got to me, can you guess which one it is? Is a sexual predator living in your neighborhood?
Is a sexual predator living in your neighborhood?
By Patricia Doxsey , Freeman staff
IT'S EVERY parent's worst nightmare.
Your child goes out to play and never comes home. You discover hours, days or weeks later that your son or daughter has been snatched, molested and killed by a known pedophile.
That's the scenario that played out in Hamilton, N.J., for Maureen and Richard Kanka, when the couple's 7-year-old daughter, Megan, out riding her bike in the early evening hours of July 29, 1994, was enticed into the home of a twice-convicted sex offender who was living, unbeknownst to the Kankas, in a house across the street from their own.
The death of Megan at the hands of a known sex offender sparked outrage across the nation and prompted President Clinton in 1995 to enact a federal statute, known as Megan's Law, requiring states to establish a sex offender registry and community notification program.
That same year, Gov. George Pataki signed into law the New York Sex Offender Registry Act, which took effect Jan. 1, 1996, and classifies 40 crimes as sex offenses.
STATE LAW requires that all convicted sex offenders be classified according to their risk of becoming repeat offenders and establishes varying degrees of community notification for each of the three levels.
Level 1 sex offenders have been deemed by the courts to be the least likely to repeat their crimes. Offenders in that category can range from an 18-year-old boy who has sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend to a 50-year-old man who has sex with his child's 14-year-old baby-sitter to someone caught with child pornography.
Those sex offenders are required to register with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services annually for 10 years.
Information on Level 1 sex offenders is available only by calling the Sex Offender Registry Information Line and providing the person's name and one of four identifiers: a driver license number, Social Security number, date of birth or exact address. Callers will be told only whether the person in question is listed on the registry.
Level 2 sex offenders also are likely to be first-time offenders but are deemed, through a court analysis of the factors involved in the crime, somewhat more likely to repeat.
They, too, are required to register each year for 10 years from their conviction date with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services but also must report their addresses to the police agency where they live. The police can notify the community of a Level 2 offender's general whereabouts.
Level 3 offenders, considered the most serious sexual predators and the most likely to repeat their crimes, are required to register every 90 days for life, but in some instances, these offenders are allowed to petition the courts to be removed from the list after 13 years.
Detailed information, including a Level 3 offender's exact address, is available on the state Division of Criminal Justice Services Web site, http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/.
ACCORDING to the Web site, there were 21,066 registered sex offenders living in New York state as of May 25, 2005. Of those, 7,048 were Level 1 offenders, 7,758 were Level 2 offenders and 5,280 were Level 3 offenders. Another 980 were awaiting classification by the courts.
In early June, the Web site showed 41 Level 3 sex offenders living in northern Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and southern Columbia counties.
The local area with the largest concentration of Level 3 offenders is Kingston, where 13 convicted sex offenders make their home. There are six living in the city of Hudson, four in Ellenville, three in Catskill and one each in the communities of Ardonia, Chichester, Coxsackie, Craryville, Freehold, Gallatin, Glasco, Highland, Hyde Park, Lake Katrine, Marlboro, Stanfordville, Stone Ridge, Tillson and West Park.
EARLIER this year, Pataki proposed a package of legislation that would have toughened the laws governing sex offenders by, among other things, requiring Level 1 and 2 offenders to adhere to the same reporting requirements as Level 3 offenders.
Those bills were approved unanimously by state Senate, but the Assembly declined to act on the governor's proposals, adopting instead its own package of bills governing sex offenders.
Unless those two houses can reach accord on those bills, by the end of 2006, some 3,000 Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders will be removed from the registry.
LONG BEFORE the state instituted the Sex Offender Registry Act, and at a time when crimes against children were rarely prosecuted, Dutchess County took a proactive approach to prosecuting sex crimes and crimes against children and managing those who committed the crimes.
In 1985, Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady appointed Assistant District Attorney Marjorie Smith as the office's child abuse prosecutor, a position funded by a state grant. The first year, Smith said, the office won convictions in 16 felony child abuse cases.
Now, the office boasts a Special Victims Unit, which Smith heads, and has a 16 percent conviction rate for sex crimes, well above the national conviction rate of 3 percent.
"Is that a number I'm really proud of?" Smith said. "No. But it sure beats the hell out of 3 (percent)."
FAMILY Services Inc., a nonprofit agency, provides sex offenders with "aversion therapy" through a program called Relapse Intervention for Sex Crimes, or RISC.
Two years ago, as a result of a grant secured by Family Services, Dutchess County launched its Sex Offender Management Program. Smith, who sits as a member of the group that runs the program, said its goal is to develop practices that lead to the effective and successful management of sex offenders in Dutchess County.
"We're kind of a steering committee," Smith said. "We recognize that these people are, at one point or another, going to be in the community, and we need to know how we can best manage where they are and what they're doing and how people can know about them."
DUTCHESS County Legislator Robert Rolison is a detective with the town police department and also a member of that group.
Rolison, R-town of Poughkeepsie, said the Sex Offender Management Program has conducted community forums, educating residents about the state law and how they best can protect themselves and their children from sexual predators. The program also has held training sessions for the local judiciary on sex offender management issues.
Additionally, Smith said, the group has recommended that county court judges, prior to sentencing sex offenders, send them for an evaluation, and then, for the first six months after the offender's release from jail, incorporate all the terms and conditions recommended by the evaluator.
NANCY Garo, a Dutchess County assistant public defender who also is a member of the Sex Offender Management Program, said a thorough evaluation of the accused and probation orders specifically tailored to their needs is key to successful treatment of offenders.
"I want to see things done in the best way possible," she said. "I obviously have an interest in seeing my clients not reoffend. I want them to succeed in treatment because I don't want new victims."
DUTCHESS County is adding yet another weapon to its arsenal, posting information on all Level 2 and 3 sex offenders monitored by the sheriff's office through a link on the county's Web site.
Dutchess County Sheriff's Sgt. Patrick Whalen said the office has posted the photographs and the information allowed under law for 37 Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living in Dutchess County. Other police agencies with which sex offenders have registered have been invited by the sheriff's office to post their information on the site as well, he said.
"This will solve a lot of the notification problems that police agencies have," Whalen said. "There's a lot of problems with doing individual postings, individual notifications. Logistics is the biggest one."
THE STATE'S Sex Offender Registry Act always has been a bit controversial.
There has been confusion among residents over who is listed and what kind of information is available; there's been outrage over notification requirements in some communities when residents learn a sex offender is in their midst; and some say the registry gives residents a false sense of security.
"My experience has been when you deal with sex offenders, while they're on probation or under some sort of supervision, they can remain arrest-free, but the minute they're no longer (under) supervision, they kind of fall off the trolley, so it may actually act as a deterrent," Garo said.
But, she warned, when communities use the information as a tool to drive a sex offender out of a community, everyone loses.
"Your child is so unlikely to be molested by some level 3 predator offender," Garo said. "When you create this atmosphere where you want to run them out of town, unfortunately all that does is drive that person out of that location and possibly into not complying with the registration component. That mob mentality really is detrimental to the community."
On that point, Smith concurs.
"Knowing who these birds are is a very helpful thing on some level," she said. "Aren't you better off to know where he is and what he looks like than not know who they are?"
The registry notes that anyone who uses the information provided "to injure, harass or commit a criminal act against any person may be subject to criminal prosecution."
SMITH SAID parents, by using the registry, can identify people their children should be taught to avoid. But, she warned, they shouldn't be less vigilant because someone isn't on the registry.
"Most of the people that we are prosecuting do not appear on any sex offender list," Smith said. "Proportionately, it is not a big portion of the caseload here.
"Parents need to be vigilant of anybody their kid is spending time with," she added. "That doesn't mean they should be freaked out. Be vigilant, but not paranoid."
SAID GARO: "If you want to protect your kid from being offended against, supervise your children, teach your children how to defend themselves, and, when in doubt, don't leave your children with men.
"If you use (the registry) as a tool, it informs, it prepares you. That's what it's designed to do," Garo said.
"THE INTENTION of the registry is to just make information available to the community so parents and individuals can make decisions about keeping children safe," said Jessica Scarpetti, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
"That's the purpose of the registry."