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Sex Offenders in Your Neighborhood – Would You Prefer Residential Restrictions Or GPS Monitoring?
My experience with sex offender residency laws is limited to Miami-Dade County, FL laws and the cities within that county’s borders. Each state, city, and community has different laws and therefore different experiences in enforcing those laws. So please don’t take my findings as written in stone. I request the reader to take my experiences and match them with his own. Perhaps by doing this and discussing, a common solution to this problem can be found.
The main problem with Miami-Dade sex offenders basically falls into two categories: 1. The person is on probation, meets with a probation officer who checks his whereabouts and compliance with the terms of his probation. 2. The subject has served his time and must report his whereabouts to the sheriff’s office four times a year (Miami-Dade County has a police department). The police will periodically check addresses and ensure that they are in compliance with laws and ordinances.
The problem with the second category is that a sex offender may give a false address to show that they are complying with the law or list themselves as homeless where they are allowed to live. There is no way for the police to verify that a person does not live at an address or that they are not truly homeless. A sex offender can own a house across the street from a school or playground, list himself as homeless and go about his life. Being at home does not mean he lives there. The police officers will be obliged to look at my address and prove that he has lived at the address for as long as the law establishes that he is a resident of the address. Also remember that you can own a home and not live in it. Sex offenders on probation with a curfew also sleep at another location they give as their address and return home after the curfew ends (most sex offender curfews in Florida are from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM, so they are only free to roam when your kids are at school. ).
Another problem with residency restrictions is a phenomenon called pooling. Some communities will be far enough away from schools and parks to feature sex offenders as legal places to live. All sex offenders go there, or pool there. Then the community is full of sex offenders. A common response is to create laws that move sex offenders to another community and collect them. This function repeats only in cities and counties. Many sex offenders then disappear while others list themselves as homeless and live wherever they please.
My answer to closing the loop holes listed above would be the replacement of residency restrictions with GPS monitoring. This will give police, victims and the community real-time information about where sex offenders are, day and night. GPS monitors will allow police to know the exact location of sex offenders during the day or night. This will allow the police to know where the offender actually resides and if he is violating a no loitering zone around a school or day care. Best of all, when an offender cuts their leash, the police are immediately alerted and the sex offender’s general location when the incident occurs and arrests the person or sends out a BOLO (Be On The Look Out). This will be much more effective than waiting to fail to register as a sex offender.
Additional benefits are that the devices have the ability to notify victims, schools, day cares, etc., when a sex offender is within several feet of their property. This will allow staff to be more vigilant about the safety of children in their care and alert the police if there is a problem. This knowledge will provide real security to the community instead of the lip service of security that is currently provided.
Now the down side…the cost! These units are not cheap and they must be serviced. Many will be damaged, lost, or destroyed. A police officer or employee shall monitor the location of sex offenders and respond to alarms. However, these costs must be weighed against the costs of abusing another child. This is a decision that must be made by community leaders and law makers.
If a community decides to go with GPS monitoring I recommend that the community adopt an information campaign to remove all residency restrictions and inform residents of who the sex offenders are in their community and where they live. Knowledge is the best defense. Residents should also know what type of sex crime the person has been arrested for, not charged with. There can be a big difference between what a person is arrested for and what they are charged with. This arrest information will allow residents to know what type of sex offender is in their neighborhood (remember, the sex offender in your neighborhood could be a 35-year-old man who had a 15-year-old girlfriend when he was just 18. He’s a week away from turning 16 and now his Married to the victim with two children for 10 years. If you knew this information about this sex offender you would behave very differently than if you knew the offender molested a 5 year old boy. ).
A final added benefit would be that the offender would be able to find a place to live and learn to fit back into society. A man with something to lose is more controllable than a man with nothing. These residency laws put these criminals in a position of nothing, causing many to re-offend. The worst thing is when a criminal decides that he was better off in prison and decides Have some fun Before going inside. Definitely a situation we don’t want.
Lawmakers need to decide whether they are going to pay lip service to public safety against sex offenders or actually give their citizens and police the tools they need to truly monitor this population. Knowledge is the key, not ignorance and fear. Knowing what you know now, would you rather know where they don’t live or who they are and where they are? What makes you feel safe?
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