Yet another reason why the online registry needs to be taken offline and used by police only. The public is misusing the information and innocent people are being harassed over it. Even if the posters were true, the information needs to be taken offline, because the public cannot handle it without stooping to vigilantism.
By Karena Walter
A Thorold woman whose home has been targeted in a poster campaign inaccurately claiming a sex offender is living in her residence says her family is afraid to go outside for fear of retribution.
"It's scary," said the Bolton Ave. woman, who didn't want to be identified. "It's literally just blossomed into this huge, huge thing that isn't even true."
But one of the men who handed out flyers warning residents that [name withheld] is living in the house stands by them.
"If we had to do this whole thing again, we wouldn't hesitate doing it," said the Thorold resident, who said he distributed the flyers with members of the Ontario Coalition for Accountability.
About 200-300 of the flyers, titled "Attention Residents, For your protection," were distributed last Thursday on Bolton Ave and two blocks of surrounding areas, posted to telephone poles and at the nearby public pool.
They state [name withheld] is living at a Bolton Ave. address — an address that belongs to a friend, not him.
"I think it's terrible. They're picking on people that don't deserve it, the people who live at that address," [name withheld] told The Standard, adding he's worried about his friends and family who have been threatened since his release from jail earlier this month.
"If anybody is angry, they should be angry with me. Not my friends or family or people who know me."
[name withheld] said people don't know his whole story and he understands their fears.
"I know I did things wrong but now I can look forward, do my best," he said. "I was found guilty and I've got to do my best to look past that and get my life in order."
[name withheld], 44, was found guilty by a jury on March 9, 2012 of two counts of sexual assault, assault by choking and sexual interference. The case involved allegations by two women, now in their 30s, who had separate sexual relationships with [name withheld] in the 1980s when he was a young man.
He was then convicted by a jury on May 3, 2012 of sexual exploitation, sexual interference and two counts of sexual assault from incidents in 2006 and 2010 involving two girls ages 10 and 14.
He was sentenced Nov. 5, 2012 to 54 months in custody for incidents dating from the 1980s and 2010, minus pre-sentence custody.
"There was never any intention of him going to Bolton Ave.," said Det. Const. Steve Canton, in charge of the Niagara Regional Police sex-offender registry.
Canton said he's prohibited by provincial law of disclosing information about the whereabouts of people on the sex-offender registry. But he said police were aware [name withheld] was getting out and where he was going and had no issue with the location.
"His location is well known. It is a safe location, the public is safe," he said.
Canton said the flyers from citizens targeting locations of sex offenders are not encouraged. In the case where an offender's actual location is published, the person could be attacked or could flee. He said police would no longer know where they are if that happened.
- Well then stop it! If you don't, then you are condoning it!
In this case, Canton said a friend of [name withheld]'s is being taunted because of misinformation.
"They're making this a hazardous situation," he said.
Police do occasionally release information about sex offenders if they are deemed a high risk to re-offend. In this case, [name withheld], who received provincial parole five months early, was not considered a high risk.
There are nearly 300 people on the sex-offender registry list living in Niagara.
The man who handed out the flyers, who spoke on anonymity for fear he'll be in trouble with police, said he and three others acted on a tip [name withheld] was seen at the residence. He said if there's a convicted sex-offender in the neighbourhood, parents should be aware. There are lots of children in the area and a pool within a five minute walk, he said.
- And you apparently didn't check this "tip" to see if it was correct! Now innocent people are being harassed because of your vigilantism. And even if the person was seen there, that doesn't mean they live there.
He said residents who received flyers were receptive and happy to receive to information.
"We're not going to tolerate him in our community. We don't want him here," he said. "We're going to make it uncomfortable for him to stay."
- Well he has a right to be there, and you are committing a crime by harassing the person.
The woman living in the house since December 2009 said she's afraid — not of her friend [name withheld] but of the people targeting her house. Her address has been shared dozens of times on Facebook, at the local pool and with neighbours. People won't speak to her, her landlord has called to find out what's going on. Her children 12, 15 and 22 are scared they'll be followed.
"My children are afraid. I'm afraid," she said. "He doesn't live here."
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
CANADA - Posters point to wrong address