Sex offenders should, without a doubt, have to register in the jurisdiction where they take up residency. The real question is, should certain individuals be considered “sex offenders.” I will explain this in the latter portion of my article.
First of all I’m offering very little in the way of opinion. My article is based on my fifteen years of experience in the law enforcement profession, five of that as a full time investigator. I have investigated more sexually related crimes than I care to remember, but many of them are etched in my mind. Victims of sex crimes are forever impacted by the trauma they have incurred and many, without proper counseling and support, fall into the same category as their offender.
Sexually related crimes are categorized by many factors including the age of the victim, the age of the offender, the handicap of the victim, if any, whether or not a weapon was used, threat of force, inducing victims with drugs, factors regarding penetration, etc… There are many levels of these crimes including Sexual Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault, Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child, Sexual Abuse, Aggravated Sexual Abuse and others, with variations from state to state. The less serious offenses are classified as misdemeanors, the more serious as felonies. Many people believe that sex crimes are defined as only molestation and rape. This is understandable to a person not in the law enforcement field, but the details of the offense are what makes it more or less serious. The offense that the person was convicted of will usually be stated on the registry along with the offenders personal information. Researching the offense they were convicted of may provide you a little more insight on just how dangerous this person really is, if at all. Law books are available at your local libraries and much information is available online. The above listed specifics regarding the offense such as age, weapon, etc., are what you should be focusing on.
What many people fail to realize is that the sex offender registry was created mainly so that law enforcement personnel can keep tabs on the convicted offenders. When a sex offender moves from one town to another, he has a certain amount of time to notify law enforcement of his new place of residence. Failure to do so will result in an arrest for violating the sex offender registration guidelines. Sex offenders are not allowed to live near schools, parks, and other places where children may be present. This system is designed for the protection of citizens.
All sex offenders are regularly checked to see if their registration is up to date. The registration also tells law enforcement where the offender works, what he drives, and other pertinent information. The posting of this information online is only a small fraction of what the system entails.
There are flaws in the system. There are flaws in every system. Should an eighteen year old boy be convicted and have to register as a sex offender simply because he had consensual sex with his sixteen year old girlfriend without her parents permission? Many in the law enforcement profession would say no. This is one exception to the rule. If we prosecuted every boy in this position, our jails and prisons would be full of “sex offenders” under the age of twenty.
Should a school teacher who has had sex with a student and been convicted of that offense be required to register? Should a police officer who made a deal with a teenage girl to get out of a speeding ticket and he was found guilty of a sexually related crime be required to register? Should a priest or other person of the church who has committed a sex crime against a member of his congregation be required to register? YES! YES! YES! Why? These people were all in positions of trust. In many cases they used this position of trust to gain the confidence of their victim only to violate them. The “position of trust” issue is clearly defined in many of the sexually related crime statutes. Though a conviction on their record would probably remove someone from their employment, they could still quite possibly move away and re-offend should the sex offender registry not be available.
It was not long ago that a violent sexual predator could have been released from prison only to buy a house next door to you, just across from the grade school. You could have him over for coffee, maybe a fishing trip with you and your boy. Worst case scenario you need a night out and he offers to baby-sit. Can you tell by looking at him that he is a sex offender? Of course not. For every sex offender arrested in this country, there are many, many more slipping through the cracks. These are sly, intelligent individuals, many of them holding positions of trust. The last thing anyone would suspect is that they are a sex offender, but that is why so many slip through. They gain confidence while building the trust of others, all the while increasing the number of their victims. The sex offender registry provides the information that you as parents, grandparents, or daycare providers have the right to know!
Furthermore, having the sex offender registry in place will reduce the number of sexually related crimes. Is it humiliating? Yes, the humiliation part being one of many effective tools designed to steer those away who may commit sexually related crimes. If someone knows that they may have to register as a sex offender for the next ten years of their life, in addition to having their picture posted online for the world to see, they will hopefully make the decision not to offend. Do modifications need to be made in some areas? Sure, but until someone approaches their state legislature to correct the flaws, they will remain in place.
Sex crimes are clearly defined in each states criminal law manuals. They are the hardest of crimes to prove on both the part of the investigator and the prosecutor. One of the reasons for this is that many victims of such crimes are not willing to testify against his/her offender, usually out of fear or retaliation. For this reason, many of these crimes never go to trial.
You hear it time and time again. “This was a nice man, he just made a mistake”. Maybe so, but every decision we make in life has a consequence. Many of us learn this in grade school. The offenders of these crimes did not take the time to consider the consequences of their actions before deciding to offend. They had that choice. The greatest percentage of victims did not.