Monday, November 7, 2011

NY - Study Finds Fault With Sex-Offender Restriction Laws

Julia Tuttle Causeway
Original Article

11/07/2011

By NEIL OSTERWEIL

BOSTON – Laws intended to keep convicted sex offenders far away from schools, playgrounds, shopping malls, and other places where children might gather don’t appear to work or aren’t being vigorously enforced in parts of the United States. And when the laws are adhered to, they often keep offenders far away from needed psychiatric services, job prospects, and social support, researchers said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

In Buffalo, N.Y., sex offenders are legally barred from living in all but 6.5% of the city’s total area, but more than 90% of sex offenders in the county live within that city’s limits, said Dr. Jacqueline A. Berenson, a forensic psychiatrist in private practice in New York City.

"One of the conclusions that has come from a number of studies is that the legislation is not only not helping with the recidivism rate of sex offenders in the community, but may actually be worsening recidivism rates, and that the collateral damage being done by this legislation nationally is self-defeating," she said.

Residence restriction laws vary considerably in their components (who is an offender, where can’t they live, how far they must stay away), and in terms of complexity and ambiguity of the statutes, which vary in their definition, measurement of distance, and enforcement, Dr. Berenson noted.

For example, in Erie County, N.Y., alone, rules vary from one municipality to the next. In the city of Lackawanna, level 3 registered sex offenders or any registered offender over the age of 17 convicted of an offense (including statutory rape) upon a child age 16 or under is forbidden from living within 2,000 feet of any school, park, playground, athletic field, or day care center. In contrast, the Town of Evans and the Village of Sloan set a 1,500-foot boundary, with Sloan bylaws adding teen/community centers, dance halls, and skating rinks to exclusion zones. The law does not specify what constitutes a "teen/community center" or "dance hall."

Such laws, Dr. Berenson said, often force offenders to live in more rural areas where they might not have community or social support or access to services, or to violate the laws by living within an off-limits area and risk parole violation, rearrest, and imprisonment.

"Do they understand what the legislation means? Do their parole officers understand? And if they don’t understand, does that make them not culpable if they’re living in a restricted area? And the answer to that is ‘No’; if they’re living in a restricted area, the potential for being arrested and charged with a felony is real," she said.

A researcher who also studies housing issues of sex offenders, Andrew J. Harris, Ph.D., from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, cited the example of Miami-Dade County, Fla., where sex offenders were living in a makeshift encampment under a bridge on the Julia Tuttle Causeway, the only place they could find that didn’t violate that county’s residence restrictions. Some offenders even received state-issued IDs listing the causeway as their place of residence.

Mapping Offenders

Dr. Berenson reported results of a study that she and Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum of Columbia University, New York, conducted on the effect of residence statutes on the availability of residences for registered sex offenders in both urban and rural areas of Erie and Schenectady counties in New York.

They collected parcel data from the New York State Department of Cyber Security and the Schenectady County geographic information services department, and created overlay maps showing restricted locations according to statute, and residential locations of registered sex offenders.

Although they expected to find that most offenders were living in rural areas, where schools and playgrounds are more widely dispersed, they found that the opposite was true. In Erie County, 90% of offenders were living in restricted areas, and nearly all were within the city limits of Buffalo (91% of the city dwellers were living in restricted areas of Buffalo). Similarly, 90% of offenders in Schenectady County were living in restricted zones, and 100% of offenders living within the City of Schenectady were doing so afoul of the law.

In both counties, only a small percentage of rural residences were in restricted zones, whereas the large majority of multiple family residences or apartments, more commonly found in urban areas, were not legally available to offenders.

The implications of these findings, Dr. Berenson said, are that there may be inadequate resources or an unwillingness on the part of law enforcement agencies to follow the restriction statutes. She noted that courts have overturned sex offender residency laws in eight New York counties, and that the Washington County board of supervisors recently voted to repeal that county’s law.

"Policy makers should be pulling out the [geographic information services] software themselves and asking, ‘What is the actual impact of this legislation? What’s going to happen? Where are these guys going to go?’ " Dr. Harris said. "Housing is a matter of managing this inherent risk that people have for public safety and minimizing the collateral risk."

Dr. Berenson’s study was internally funded. Dr. Berenson and Dr. Harris reported that they had no relevant financial disclosures.


Cops Enlist Data-Tracking Software in the Fight against CHILD PREDATORS

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AUSTRALIA - Police union against sex offender register

Original Article
Related Article

11/07/2011

Creating an online register of serious sex offenders will lead to vigilante attacks and make the job of police harder, the West Australian police union says.

The WA government will table legislation this week to set up the register, allowing parents or guardians to see photos and names of serious or repeat sex offenders who live in their neighbourhoods.

But WA Police Union president Russell Armstrong says the register would make it harder for officers to monitor and track serious sex offenders.

"Our fear is that they will go underground, move from the locations that they're at, making it difficult for us to find them and make sure the community is protected," he said.

Mr Armstrong said registers in the United States had led to the formation of vigilante groups.

Police monitoring of serious sex offenders in WA was working, he said.

"Our officers do a great job. We know where they are and what they're doing," he said.

"If this is available to the general community, we will have to have police officers standing guard at these parasites' houses all the time."

The state opposition says it is unlikely to support the proposed register in parliament.

Opposition police spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said the register could lead to vigilantism, a concern also raised by WA lawyers who oppose the register.

But Attorney-General Christian Porter said there built-in safeguards to deter vigilantism, and a similar scheme in the United Kingdom had not triggered such attacks.
- That is a lie!  The UK has more vigilante attacks than any other country, even the US, which is second in line. And you can see that here.

Mr Porter said the register was intended to help parents protect their children by knowing the whereabouts of known serious sex offenders and misuse of the information could lead to penalties.

The register would be the first of its kind in Australia.


AUSTRALIA - Sex Offender Register, is it a good idea?

Original Article

NOTE: Apture is having web site issues, so the LISTEN link below may or may not work.

11/07/2011

By Halina Baczkowski

(Listen) You see a man acting suspiciously with children in your neighbourhood .

There's something about him you don't like.

What if you could hop onto a police website, tap in your post code, and check to see if his photo comes up as a convicted pedophile?
- Not all sex offenders are pedophiles, darn it!  Leave your comment at the link above, we did.

It's going to happen in Western Australia soon with legislation to go before parliament this week.

It means an online register will be available where people can check if sex offenders are living in their areas.

Here's how it works....You punch in your post code and photographs of repeat or dangours sex offenders living in your area will come up.

If the child sex offender has breached bail or reporting conditions - you can access their name, date of birth, photos and aliases.

Terri Begley spoke with Hetty Johnston from Bravehearts