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Every day, we all hear stories about sex-based offenses and the offenders that commit these crimes. Just by searching the current news for a one - week period, using the keywords “Sex Offender” returns more than 1,300 hits. Some of the following stories are just a few from all over the country.
- Registered sex offender Lyle Paton has 2 prior convictions for possession of child pornography and third-degree criminal sexual conduct from the mid-90s. He is now being charged in Minnesota with allegedly sexually abusing four young boys.
- Another man in Illinois is being charged with allegedly breaking into a home and attempting to have sexual contact with two girls within the home. In 2001, he was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim under the age of 18.
- Norman Watson, a baseball coach and convicted registered sex offender, pled guilty and was sentenced to 84 years in prison in 1998 for 39 counts of forcible lewd acts with a child. The crimes were committed between 1990 and 1996 during which time he was on parole for an earlier child molestation conviction.
- A child sex offender in Maryland who has been twice convicted for sex-related crimes has been charged for allegedly murdering an 11-year-old boy. The boy had been missing for about a week.
- A man in West Virginia allegedly killed a woman shortly before driving the victim’s car to the state police office to update his sex offender registry.
History of the Sex Offender Registry
Prior to 1994, only a few states required sex offenders to register their personal information and current address with their local law enforcement. As the problem and awareness grew around sex-based crimes, Congress was forced to take action. The Wetterling Act was passed, and it required all states to create a sex offender registry or surrender 10 percent of federal funds allocated under the Byrne Grant Program for state and local law enforcement.
Today, all 50 states have a registered sex offenders list.
Although this was a big first step, in 1996, Congress then went on to pass Megan’s Law due to increasing public outcry for knowledge of the addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders. Megan’s Law was created in response to the murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka. The man convicted for her murder was a released sex offender living down the street from her family.
The Problems With Maintaining the Sex Offender Registry
It is no secret that we are seeing an increase in “lost” registered sex offenders all over the country.
Out of the 500,000 plus registered sex offenders in the U.S., more than 100,000 of those individuals are nowhere to be found and have not continued to register as they have moved around the country. Many states do not have the resources to maintain these registries through local agencies and have simply not been able to keep up with the rise in sex offender convictions.
In addition, some state laws are not as strict as others. Registered sex offenders migrate to the states that are currently doing a poor job of maintaining their registries thus facilitating the increasing number of missing sex offenders.
What’s Being Done to Reduce the Number of “Lost” Sex Offenders?
In July 2006, Congress signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This bill was named after 6-year Adam Walsh who was kidnapped and murdered 27 years ago.
The regulations laid out by this bill will assist in the monitoring and locating of registered sex offenders as well as assist in tracking down sexual predators that have never been caught.
There Are Four Important Changes that this Bill Has Brought About:
It Expands the National Sex Offender Registry
- This bill will integrate the information in all current state registries so that law enforcement in all states will have access to the same shared info This will then reduce the ability for sex offenders to move from state-to-state without detection.
It Creates Stricter Federal Penalties for Crimes Against Children
- This bill requires stronger minimum penalties for criminals convicted of crimes against children. It will also provide grants to states to institutionalize those offenders about to be released from prison that have indicated they cannot change their behavior.
It Makes It More Difficult for Sexual Predators to Target Children on the Internet
- This bill facilitates the creation of regional task forces to train and implement ways for law enforcement to track and catch internet sexual predators.
It requires the creation of a national database of criminals convicted of child abuse
- This bill will integrate all state child abuse information so that state and local offices across the country can look at this information before handing a child over for foster care or adoption. It also requires that background checks be conducted on all adoptive and foster parents before they are approved to take custody of a child.
How Does This Affect Your Home and Workplace?
In looking at statistics from all over the country, around two-thirds of victims know their assailant.
Be familiar with the sex offenders who live in your area, and know what crime they committed. In addition, know where the sex offenders live in the area of your child’s school. Some states – but not all - have passed laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within a certain distance of a school or park.
Also, make sure that the schools your children attend are conducting background checks on all employees, contractors and volunteers. This is an important step in an attempt to prevent a criminal act from happening.
Most violent offenders have a criminal history of some sort. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 61 percent of all sex offenders have a criminal conviction from their past that resulted in probation or imprisonment.
When conducting a background check in your workplace on applicants and volunteers, be sure to check the National Sex Offender Registry, especially in situations where the individual will be entering a person’s home or working with children. It is not recommended to just check your immediate area to see if they are registered. Just because they are not currently registered as a sex offender in your area does not mean that they are not registered in another state and have moved to your area undetected. Also, be sure to look for prior convictions in all the counties the individual has lived in during the last seven years. As the statistic above shows, the majority of sex offenders have a prior conviction. This type of expanded searching can help you to determine if they have a violent past.
One negligent hiring suit can close an organization’s doors. According to the Workplace Violence Institute, negligent hiring costs U.S. businesses in excess of $18 billion annually.
By implementing a background screening policy in your organization, you can substantially help your case if ever confronted with a negligent hiring lawsuit due to an incident in the workplace. In order to really prove due diligence, you should check with your background provider to make sure you are doing the most comprehensive background screening option available. In addition, you can implement programs requiring your vendors to do the same caliber of background screening that you are doing, to ensure that you are taking every measure available to assist you in maintaining a safe work environment for your employees and your community.
Sex crimes are a growing problem in this country. There are many factors playing a role in this increase, but there are prevention tools available to prevent your work and home environment from being victim to a criminal act. These types of crimes can destroy a person, a home, and an organization. There are many resources out there that provide valuable knowledge and tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
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