Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Keeping tabs on sex offenders in rural areas may be a more common police task than you think

Here's a story that could be done in many rural communities, maybe more than you might realize. Read on.

Detective Amanda McNamee of the Dickinson, N.D., Police Department is assigned to keep tabs on the small city's 20 registered sex offenders. "In addition to being fingerprinted, photographed and swabbed for a DNA sample, (sex offenders) must register with local law enforcement officials within three days of moving into a community," Dan Barry writes in the The New York Times.

"This includes providing home address, employer’s address, e-mail address and any information regarding motor vehicles, schools and 'social networking.' Every now and then the police department sends a news release to the local newspaper to report that a high-risk offender has moved to town. Its boilerplate text explains that notification is being made 'in the belief that an informed public is a safer public,' but that the information 'is not to be used to threaten, harass, assault, or intimidate the registered offenders.' In the end, one person monitors the registered sex offenders of Dickinson: Detective McNamee, 27, the wife of a night-shift supervisor at the Baker Boy plant and the mother of two children, one 19 months old, the other 4 months old."

McNamee became one of only two women on a force of approximately 25 when she joined in 2003. After several years of riding patrol, she transferred to the investigations unit in 2006 and recognized "an opportunity to improve the way the department kept track of the city’s registered sex offenders. Now she has her 'high-risk guys,' her 'moderate-risk guys' and her 'low-risk guys,' a few of whom reside upstairs from her office, in the Southwest Multi-County Correction Center. She makes a point of meeting each one of these inmates to say, 'When you’re out, I’ll come see you.'" Eleven low-risk offenders are checked on by Detective McNamee every few months, but "she gives much closer scrutiny to her five moderate-risk offenders and her four high-risk offenders... She keeps track of them through telephone conversations and face-to-face meetings that are nothing if not guarded."

Officers of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault "believe a law passed in recent years restricting where registered sex offenders may live have caused many to move to rural areas," writes James Nash in The Courier of Montgomery County. "The new law, barring offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks or day care centers, was part of U.S. House Bill 8, also known as Jessica’s Law, which went into effect on Sept. 1 of last year. It also eliminated the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual assault and doubles the statute of limitations for other sexually violent offenses, therefore increasing the number of offenders required to register.

The bill was named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl whose kidnapping, rape and murder in 2005 by a registered sex offender gained national attention. Additionally, House Bill 8 included a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life for aggravated sexual assault of someone under 14 years old, and the option of the death penalty or life without parole for a second aggravated sexual assault against someone under 14. It also requires sexually violent predators who are civilly committed — instead of criminally — to wear a global position system device for the rest of their lives. Texas was the thirty-second state to adopt Jessica's Law."

Most states have passed laws that restrict where sex offenders can live, which may result in many relocating to rural areas. Is this a problem in your community, and if so, is there a Detective McNamee in your community?

1 comment:

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