Saturday, January 17, 2009
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By TRACY GORDON FOX
THE former police commander Robert Kenary began his presentation with a bold message projected on a large screen: “Stranger danger is not the main threat to your child,” it said in large black letters. “It’s the stranger you know.”
In a program for parents and childcare workers designed to prevent sexual abuse before it occurs, Mr. Kenary, a retired 33-year officer, quickly shatters many long-held myths about those committing sexual assaults against children. He brings with him statistics, examples of cases and research from law enforcement officials and psychiatrists.
Don’t worry that some creepy stranger will jump out from behind a tree with a bag of candy, he told the foster parents who had been brought together for the program by the state’s Department of Children and Families. Don’t bank on checking the state’s comprehensive sexual offender registry to see if the neighborhood is safe either.
In reality, the offenders are almost never strangers; in about 99 percent of the cases, the child knows the suspect well or is related to him, Mr. Kenary said. Moreover, despite every parent’s fear of stranger danger, fewer than 100 abductions by strangers are reported across the country every year.
Two years ago, the state started using Mr. Kenary as a speaker when the Children’s Trust Fund, a state agency created to prevent child abuse and neglect, began to look at the statistics and realized just as he had that they were teaching the wrong message. The program is offered statewide to any group that deals with children, including parents, foster parents, athletic leagues and even members of the clergy. And his work has brought an invitation to a national conference on abuse in Atlanta in March.
“When we looked at the kinds of programs that were available, they didn’t really speak to these statistics,” said Karen Foley-Schain, executive director of the Children’s Trust Fund. “All we heard about was ‘stranger danger.’ You had this entire approach based on a misunderstanding of what is going on.”
The state discovered Mr. Kenary when he was teaching a program in East Hartford to women’s and youth services groups as a volunteer. He had investigated more than a hundred abuse cases over the years as a police officer.
“I was so angry over this,” Mr. Kenary recalled, because he said he knew that most convicted offenders were not pedophiles, but rather opportunists who had regressive sexual behavior. And he knew that the registry would not make most children any safer because only 3 percent of offenders are ever caught. “So I started talking to local groups about sex offenders.”
“We have given our children this mental picture of what these guys look like,” Mr. Kenary told the foster parents. “They live under a bridge. They eat frogs. It’s not how it works.”
Because if that were how it worked, children would never willingly go near them, and there would not be the 87,900 cases of reported abuse across the country, which represents only about 3 percent to 8 percent of the cases, Mr. Kenary said. Up to 97 percent of cases, particularly incest, go unreported, he said.
Mr. Kenary used no explicit sexual terminology in his presentation, nor did he use large legal or psychological terms. He kept his lesson simple and clear: Talk to your children early about sexuality and about the boundaries, he said.
Mr. Kenary explained to parents that there were two main types of offenders. These are pedophiles who will win the child’s favor, and opportunistic offenders who do not necessarily favor children, but will abuse them if given the chance.
Too often, Mr. Kenary said, offenders seem like “nice guys.” He said he had seen doctors, teachers, coaches, step-parents, boyfriends, even police officers arrested for abusing children.
“It did change my views,” said Kara Pfiefer, a new foster parent who attended the Danbury program. “I didn’t realize the extent that it was so close to home.”
View the article here
View HB-55 Here
Also, notice the highlighted text? I thought these laws were regulatory and not punishment?
By KAHRIN DEINES - Associated Press Writer
HELENA - A bill that could prevent juvenile sex offenders from living near schools was heard Friday by the House Judiciary Committee.
The proposed law would extend the same limitations existing for adult sex offenders to juveniles rated most likely to re-offend. In addition to schools, they would not be allowed to live near daycares, churches or public parks.
Republican Rep. Ray Hawk (Email) of Florence sponsored the legislation, after learning that a juvenile offender was living within 30 feet of a playground in his district.
The Florence-Carlton school was shocked to discover the 17-year-old offender living with relatives in a trailer from where he could watch school children playing.
"It caused a paralysis in our community," said John McGee, the superintendent of the district.
The attorney general's office supports the bill which would affect only those juveniles considered at high risk to re-offend.
- Yeah right, they said the same thing with the sex offender laws affecting adults, but it covers all sex offenders, and this will just be more of the same.
"This is a balanced approach that will serve public safety and not be too punitive for these juveniles," said Ali Bovingdon, a spokeswoman for the office.
- What about the parents and family they may be living with? Now they could possibly be forced to move over and over and over again!
If offenders complete treatment and their living situation is approved by their treatment officer, the bill allows the new residency restrictions to be waived.
Still, those involved in sex-offender rehabilitation argue the bill sends the wrong message to the public about what causes a relapse, and would interfere with youth offenders' recovery.
- The same can be said about adult offenders as well.
"Though this is emotionally appealing, if you're working in the field with these folks, one can see how it's not related to re-offense," said Andy Hudak of the Montana Sex Offender Treatment Association. "Where a guy lives doesn't have an influence on whether he re-offends or not."
- Women commit these crimes as well.
The Montana School Boards Association also supports the bill in its "spirit and intent," but would like to see it amended to ensure school districts are notified by the courts when high-risk juvenile sex offenders move into their schools.
Under the Sexual and Violent Offender Registration Act all adult and juvenile offenders must register their location with the state, and the information is searchable online. However, current law does not require direct notification of school districts, so they may not know if convicted sex offenders enroll in classes.
- So why has laws for adults and juveniles, if you are going to treat them all the same?
In fact, last year the Belgrade School District was surprised to learn through a community member who used the online registry that two juvenile sex offenders were enrolled in its school system, said Debra Silk, associate executive director for the association.
One of the students was allowed to remain at the school and the other was not, she said, adding that educators need to know the details of the offenders' crimes to make such decisions.
While Hudak agreed schools should be notified about high-risk offenders, he said excluding sex offenders, especially young ones, from a community only increases the risk of recidivism.
- The same can be said for adult offenders!
"Consider the impact and the force towards the alienation of peers that this creates," he said.
- They don't care about this, they care about saving their careers, and looking "tough on crime" to the sheeple!
— The bill is House Bill 55.
By NELSY RODRIGUEZ - Staff Writer
Proposal would restrict sex offenders from loitering, leering at children
MURRIETA ---- Registered sex offenders would not be allowed to hang out and watch children at child-friendly locations such as parks, schools and the bowling alley if a proposed ordinance is approved by the Murrieta City Council.
Council members will consider the ordinance, proposed by the Murrieta Police Department, during its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday at City Hall, located at 24601 Jefferson Ave.
If approved, the ordinance would establish "child safety zones" throughout the city at locations frequented by children. Registered sex offenders could be found guilty of a misdemeanor if officers can prove they were within 300 feet of these zones and had the intent to watch, engage or solicit children, a city report states.
Those in violation of the ordinance could also be fined between $500 and $1,000, and could be ordered to serve up to six months in county jail, the report states.
A list of potential safety zones includes more than 80 parks and schools in Murrieta, as well as recreational centers such as Brunswick California Oaks Bowl, Mulligan Family Fun Center, Pole Position Raceway, the Murrieta Community Center and the city's library. Signs would be posted at locations designated as a child safety zone, the report states. Police officials estimate the signs would cost the city about $1,500.
While a professor of criminal justice said the ordinance is "almost guaranteed" to be challenged, Murrieta police Lt. Dennis Vrooman said Friday the ordinance is a legal and valid way of protecting the community's youths from pedophiles on the prowl.
"It doesn't prohibit them from being there," Vrooman said. "It prohibits them from being there in conjunction with their behavior."
Murrieta is home to 35 registered sex offenders, according to the county's Megan's Law Web site. The Police Department estimates that as many as 290 sex offenders reside in Murrieta's immediate surroundings, city reports state.
At Mulligan Family Fun Center, General Manager Chris Seaton said he hasn't had problems with suspicious adults leering at children. Nonetheless, Seaton said, a child safety zone designation at his business would be a good preventative measure.
The crimes some sex offenders commit are largely considered to be among the most heinous because the victims are often children, Vrooman said. And of the four more heinous crimes ---- sex, drug, arson and gang offenses ---- those who commit sex crimes are the most likely to repeat their offenses, Vrooman said.
- That last statement is a lie, check out the Bureau of Justice statistics, and also these.
"We all have a heightened sense of concern over sex offenders," Vrooman said. "What the overall intent is, is to add safety measures within the city to protect our children."
Residents in the state have agreed.
In 2006, 70 percent of the state voted to enact Proposition 83, an initiative known as Jessica's Law that was put on the ballot by public petition. The law increased penalties for child molesters and violent and habitual sex offenders, restricted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park and allowed for sex offenders to be monitored with Global Positioning System devices.
Following suit, Canyon Lake enacted a similar ordinance in 2007 that prohibited registered sex offenders from coming within 500 feet of a park or school.
But societal scrutiny over sex offenders can be challenged because they are singled out among other criminals, like drug dealers and murderers, said Stephen Tibbetts, professor of criminal justice at Cal State San Bernardino.
Given an overview of the ordinance, Tibbetts said he doesn't believe the civil liberties of registered offenders would be grossly abused. However, he said, some might argue that no prejudicial governance should be applied to public buildings.
Also, Tibbetts said, the restrictions may be over-reaching because some people who are required to register as sex offenders are guilty of less severe crimes, such as urinating in public.
"People just don't realize that California has probably the most strict laws" governing sex offenders, Tibbetts said. "If it gets challenged, (the city is) going to have to fight to defend it because I can definitely see the problems with it. And it's just a matter of time, I think, before it's challenged."