Tuesday, December 6, 2011
GATES COUNTY (WAVY) - Officials in North Carolina are calling their recent sex offender operation a success. Operation "Northern Star" was organized to ensure registered sex offenders were living at the address provided to authorities.
- So what constitutes a success? Arrests? It would seem if they carried out the sweep and none were arrested, that would be more of a success!
The operation, conducted by three North Carolina counties and U.S. Marshals, netted eight arrest (None for new sex crimes). Less of half of them were people who violated the law requiring sex offenders notify local police departments of address changes. Police say the small number of arrest proves the pressure they put on registered sex offenders is working.
- It doesn't prove anything, in our opinion, it just proves the police are helping keep the prison business in business by carrying out sex offender witch hunts. When are you going to do witch hunts for all other criminals who are more dangerous?
"We've got a lot of folks out of Virginia that transit back and forth across state lines. Um, they love to move, it seems to be in my county, they love to move from Gates County to Currituck and from Currituck County back to Gates County. That seems to be an ongoing thing," Gates County Sheriff Edward Webb said.
Of the three counties participating in this operation Gates has the fewest registered sex offenders at 25. Northampton reports 36 offenders and Hertford has 56 on the list.
Once word of the operation hit the streets, a number of registered sex offenders went looking for the police.
"Last night my phone was ringing off the hook trying to make sure they was in compliance and in place," Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent said.
Operation "Northern Star" also recovered several firearms illegally possessed by convicted felons, even some narcotics.
Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said, "...and also in Hertford County we ended up solving a break-in, getting a weapon back. Ended up getting a fugitive from yesterday's operation."
In July 2006, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act requiring sex offenders to notify authorities of their current address.
The U.S. Marshals Service is the lead agency enforcing the legislation.
By Jeff McMenemy
LYNN — A Level 3 sex offender who recently bought a home within 1,000 feet of the Shoemaker Elementary School and Gowdy Park insists he is not a danger to anyone and believes it’s unfair that city officials plan to try to force him to move.
“I have every legal right to live here,” [name withheld] said during an interview Thursday on the front steps of his [address withheld] home in Lynn.
“I’m trying to adapt within a community. I don’t believe I’m a threat to anyone.”
But that hasn’t stopped Lynn city officials from preparing to send [name withheld] a letter ordering him to move from his home, the first such letter they are writing under the city’s sex offender ordinance.
Assistant City Solicitor James Lamanna said Thursday he will send a letter to [name withheld] by today at the latest informing him that as a Level 3 sex offender — which is defined by the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board as someone having a “high risk to re-offend” — he is barred from living within 1,000 feet of a school, park or other private or public recreational facilities.
City officials can fine [name withheld] $300 a day if he refuses to move out of the house within 30 days of receiving the notice, according to Lamanna, who said this is the first time city officials have used the ordinance, passed in its latest form in December 2010, to try to force a Level 3 sex offender to move out of a neighborhood.
“This is the first time we’ve sent a notice to vacate,” Lamanna said. “We’ve had a number of Level 3 sex offenders come into the office and look at the maps to see where they can live.”
Lamanna said city officials modeled the ordinance after others that have withstood legal challenges.
But [name withheld], who was convicted in 2008 of trying to entice a 14-year-old boy into his car in Revere, according to police and court reports, says he will fight the law in court if the city tries to force him to move.
“I have every right to be here. I stay in my house. I don’t bother people,” he said after checking his mailbox for the anticipated letter from the city. “They can’t do this to me.”
But Gretchen Hosker, the program director of the Little Theatre Kindergarten, said Thursday night she immediately sent out notices to all the parents of the children who attend the nursery school and kindergarten, which is located just around the corner from where the Level 3 sex offender lives.
“My first concern was how did it get to the point where he was able to move in when we have this ordinance in place,” Hosker, who’s worked at the school for 24 years, said.
She stressed that “safety is always number one in my mind,” and school employees remain “super vigilant” to make sure children are always safe.
“We are always very careful,” she said. “We always count children when we’re in school, and when we go outside.”
Parents of children at the school said they were glad to get the information that a Level 3 sex offender was living nearby, Hosker said.
“The ones living in the neighborhood don’t understand why they weren’t notified before I got the letter,” she said.
Police Chief Kevin Coppinger said Thursday that he checked and confirmed that [name withheld] was violating the city ordinance by living where he lives, but the convicted sex offender has complied with state criminal laws by notifying police that he has moved into the neighborhood.
Coppinger said the police can’t charge [name withheld] criminally for violating the city ordinance, but they can notify his probation officer to tell him or her that the Level 3 sex offender is violating the city ordinance.
Patricia Riley, principal of the Shoemaker Elementary School, located on Regina Road, said City Council President Tim Phelan and Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi, who represents the ward where the Level 3 sex offender lives, are holding a neighborhood meeting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the school to talk about the issue.
But she stressed that safety measures have long been in place that will keep the children safe.
“We feel the students are very safe here,” she said Thursday. “The doors are closed and locked at all times, and even the parents have to sign in.”
Phelan sent a letter to the City Solicitor asking him to send a letter to the Level 3 sex offender after learning he was living near the school.
Phelan said if [name withheld] chooses to fight the issue it could be the first real test of the city’s ordinance. He said communities across the country have faced similar challenges in court and often the offenders have gone to the American Civil Liberties Union for representation.
“They’ll argue that he has the right to civil liberty,” Phelan said. “I personally think that once someone does something to a kid or a child, they lose those rights. It’s time to protect the kid and I think the city should aggressively pursue this.”
Currently the blog seems to be password protected, or requires you to log in using Wordpress. Hopefully that will change.
730,000 American men are suffering because of draconian sex offense legislation. Many of them have committed a minor offense such as urinating in public or mooning at college. Even prostitutes are included on the registry. Please visit us!
For you folks who live in Texas, here is your chance. Visit these people and speak out!
By KAREN SMITH WELCH
The complexities of regulating where some sex offenders can live have caused Amarillo City Commissioners to slow debate, collect research and gather public feedback.
“There’s so many unanswered questions,” Commissioner Ellen Green said. “I’m not ready to vote on this. There’s a lot more that I need to know.”
Rather than take one of two votes required to enact a proposed ordinance setting residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders, commissioners today will instead conduct a public hearing and hear additional information pulled together by city police and staff regarding numerous aspects of the issue, commissioners said.
The proposed ordinance would bar convicted sex offenders from living near public or private schools, state-licensed day cares, and public parks and pools. The measure would make it illegal for offenders to live within 1,000 feet of those places, plus public recreational areas, youth centers and video arcades.
State law prohibits certain convicted sex offenders required to register on a Texas Department of Public Safety database from living within 1,000 feet of schools and other locations where children gather. But while they still must register their residences once their supervised release ends, the residency restriction does not continue, Amarillo police Capt. Jeff Lester said.
Commissioners first publicly discussed the idea during last week’s work session with four, at that time, expressing interest in taking the measure to a vote today. Green said her position on the issue has since become less solid.
“I’m not saying I’m against it or for it right now. In fact, I’ve changed my mind three times this week,” Green said. “Like any other important issue, there’s so much beneath the surface.”
As proposed, the residency restrictions would apply to convicted sex offenders who are required to register on the state database for crimes involving victims who are age 17 and younger.
Amarillo police have recommended the ordinance set the age-range of victims at 14 or younger to prevent the law from applying to “Romeo-and-Juliet” situations in which one of two teens involved in consensual sex is convicted as an adult, Lester said.
“At any cut line that you want to pick, as far as your victim, the younger the victim, I think everybody would agree, the more heinous the crime,” City Manager Jarrett Atkinson said. “That (victim age range) is something that could be up for discussion today.”
Commissioner Brian Eades (Email, Facebook) questions whether restricting residency will actually accomplish the intent of protecting children from predators. Eades cites research that shows a majority of victims are abused by people they know.
That majority actually is 90 percent, and in Amarillo, 99 percent, according to April Leming, executive director of The Bridge, an Amarillo-based regional child advocacy center.
“I want to hear public input, I want to hear the input of APD, and I want to really continue to do some additional search for studies that have been done in this area,” Eades said. “I’m glad that we’ve gotten this additional time, because this is a much more complicated problem than I would have initially anticipated.”
Mayor Paul Harpole (Email) said Amarillo Police Department research provided to commissioners on Friday indicates that cities with residency restrictions have fewer registered sex offenders per 1,000 residents than Amarillo and other locations that don’t.
“The longer an ordinance has been in place, the lower the per-thousand population is for those folks,” Harpole said.
Amarillo police research shows Texas has 2.67 registered sex offenders per 1,000 residents.
Amarillo’s number ranks close to the state, at 2.63 registered sex offenders per 1,000 population, a statistic that jumps to 3.24 per 1,000 when including some offenders who live outside the city limits who use Amarillo as an address, according to documents provided to the commission.
Among cities surveyed by the department, Lubbock, Carrollton, Denton, Wichita Falls, Lewisville and El Paso all have residency restrictions and lower “per-thousand” statistics, ranging from 1.5 to 0.6 offenders per 1,000 population.
Midland, Odessa, Abilene, Waco, and Houston, randomly surveyed cities without residency restrictions, have around 2.5 to 3.2 registered sex offenders per 1,000 residents, according to the Amarillo police research. Midland is said to be working on an ordinance, the document shows.
“Just the raw numbers impressed me,” Harpole said. “Let’s not make this an oasis for people that would abuse children.”
- I am sick of hearing this. When you pass residency laws, you are going to make some places worse than others because you are forcing the ex-offenders into clusters. Get rid of the residency restriction all together, and this wouldn't be a problem, besides, like said above, residency restrictions do not protect anybody, it only exiles and forces people into homelessness.
Comments solicited during the Amarillo Police Department survey of other cities reveal residency restriction laws get mixed reviews.
Problems cited include enforcement difficulty, increases in police workload, and suggestions of exemptions that might be advisable. Exemptions suggested, for example, for offenders hospitalized or in assisted living in places too close to schools and other child-related sites, and exemptions for offenders who own homes in close proximity to locations where children congregate.
An El Paso detective said that city’s ordinance, adopted in 2007, “makes the community happy, but he believes it does not increase community safety,” according to survey information the Amarillo Police Department provided to commissioners.
“We need to have a very comprehensive and multifaceted approach to really ... start to put an end to this problem, rather than just make us feel better,” Eades said.
Harpole said he continues to favor the proposed ordinance.
“I don’t see anything in the (research) packet that was given to me yet that would change my mind,” he said.
Yet another murder in the ever growing witch-hunt of sex offenders. How many will be murdered before the online hit-list is taken offline and used by police only? You will also notice, they only show the sex offenders photo, not the accused murderers photo!
By Penny Arévalo
New details emerge in last week's mobile-home park killing. The neighbor accused of killing [name withheld] faces arraignment Tuesday.
[name withheld] was killed by a knife-wielding neighbor who allegedly punched him in the back of the head and then stabbed him so many times that the registered sex offender was nearly decapitated, authorities revealed Monday.
The grisly new details were laid out by the Orange County District Attorney's office on the eve of alleged killer Robert Eugene Vasquez's arraignment hearing. Vasquez, 34, has been charged with special circumstances murder for allegedly lying in wait for [name withheld], 54, who was found dead in front of his mobile home last week. Officials have not said whether [name withheld]'s status as a sex offender played a part in his death.
Vasquez was also charged with aggravated assault in a separate attack two days later.
According to prosecutors, Vasquez waited outside [name withheld]'s San Juan Hills Mobile Estates home on Alipaz Street early Thursday with the intention of killing him.
Vasquez first punched [name withheld] in the back of the head, then stabbed him multiple times, “nearly decapitating him,” according to a district attorney press release. He then fled the scene.
If convicted, Vasquez faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole, according to the D.A.’s office. The addition of the special circumstances charge means he is also eligible for the death penalty.
Orange County Sheriff’s deputies originally arrested Vasquez for his involvement in a second assault on Saturday, this one at another home in San Juan Capistrano. The D.A.’s office said Vasquez allegedly used a metal bar to hit Lance Lyons in the face while he was lying down.
In the course of their investigation, deputies connected Vasquez to the [name withheld] slaying, the press release said.
Investigators have not revealed possible motives for either attack.
By John L. Micek
Measure is intended to replace the patchwork of sexual offender registration laws across U.S. with a uniform, national registry.
HARRISBURG - The state House is expected to vote this week on legislation that would make sure Pennsylvania meets national standards to register and track sex offenders — or risk the loss of federal grant money.
But juvenile justice advocates are protesting a provision they say would require young people convicted of certain sexual offenses to register as sexual offenders for life, even though there's little risk of their getting in trouble again.
"They won't be able to go to college. They won't be able to get a job. We're annihilating an entire generation," said Nicole Pittman, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch in Philadelphia.
On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee approved identical House and Senate bills to upgrade Pennsylvania's Megan's Law, using a standard set by the five-year-old federal "Adam Walsh Act." Named for the late son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, the federal statute is intended to replace the patchwork of sexual offender registration laws across the country with a uniform, national registry.
Backers say the bill would close a glaring loophole in state law by requiring homeless and transient sexual offenders to register with authorities. It also would require out-of-state offenders to register with police or face a felony charge if they do not. Right now, there's no penalty for out-of-state offenders who fail to register with Pennsylvania law enforcement.
"We want to be able to know where these people are … who are a threat to our children's safety," said Rich Long, the executive director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, which has pushed for the changes. "We don't want Pennsylvania to become a magnet for sex offenders who think they can live here without accountability."
A vote by the full House could come as soon as Wednesday. If approved, the bills would go to the state Senate for further action. Republicans who control both chambers say they're intent on sending a bill to Gov. Tom Corbett by Christmas. Corbett supports closing the loopholes, but would have to review the legislation before signing it, a spokesman said.
Fifteen states, including Ohio, have come into compliance with the law. States that fail to pass compliance language face getting docked 10 percent of the biggest chunk of federal criminal justice grant money that goes to state governments. That money pays for, among other things, drug treatment and task force programs and anti-gang measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
- It will cost more to enforce the laws than to accept the loss of bribe money.
The language in the House and Senate bills that came out of committee on Monday would allow juvenile offenders ages 14 or older, who are convicted of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and aggravated assault, the option of asking to be removed from the state's registry after 25 years. A young offender convicted at 17, for instance, would be able to petition for removal at age 42.
That effectively brands young offenders for life, Pittman said Monday. Recidivism rates for young sexual offenders run as low as 4 percent to 7 percent, compared with 13 percent for adult sexual offenders and 45 percent for all adult offenders, the human rights group argued in a Nov. 30 letter to the judiciary committee.
- Many studies put the recidivism of adult offenders between 3.5%, 5.3% to 10%, so I would think juveniles would be even lower.
Rep. Thomas Caltagirone of Berks County, the House panel's ranking Democrat, said he understands the argument. But public safety comes first.
"Do they change [over time]?" he mused. "Maybe. … In anything we do, we can always go back. We're just trying to close some of these loopholes."