Children, Safety, and Sex Offenders
by Denise Womer
Child safety is paramount and legislation is important to protect our children from sex offenders. Most parents believe that legislation will protect their children. In the United States, convicted sex offenders are required to register their residence with law enforcement. In some states their email addresses, work information, vehicle registration data, and school enrollment are also required. In addition, many jurisdictions have added residential restrictions to keep sex offenders from living or hanging out near parks, day cares, schools, and other areas where children congregate.
Studies that suggest that many sex offenders did not make contact with their victims in these protected areas, but more often through a family acquaintance or as family members. Research has shown that child molestation is perpetrated by family members and/or acquaintances more so than by strangers.
So, we may monitor a stranger who is a registered sex offender within our states and we do this very well, but do we do monitor those who are invited into our homes?
The police are monitoring sex offenders online and regularly checking residences where sex offenders live. When laws that are meant to protect our children seem to fail in society's view, citizens cry for more legislation or imply police do not do enough.
There are some inadequacies with state sex offender registries. For example, sex offenders moving from one state to another are responsible to notify the police agency where they intend to live within 48 hours. This is relying on the sex offenders to be honest and obey the law, instead of a nationwide tracking database of offenders who are mobile. Next, some offender's locations are inaccurate on one registry as compared to another.
We can continue to pass more legislation to restrict convicted sex offenders from living within our communities and rely on sex offender registries to protect children. However, parents must also start supervising their children when they are outside the home or inside with unlimited access to a computer. Last, parents need to exercise better judgment when they leave their children in someone else's care, either a family member or an acquaintance.
Dr. Denise Womer is a retired Florida LEO, residing in the Orlando area. She is Professor of Criminal Justice at Kaplan University.