Friday, November 23, 2007

AZ - Arrests for sex crimes falling

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At a time when public awareness of child molesters and rapists has never been more acute, arrests for sex offenses have been dropping steadily for almost a decade.

FBI reports show that arrests are down across the country, including Arizona, where the numbers have fallen from more than 2,000 in 1997 to 1,500 last year. Criminal-justice experts are uncertain about the reason.

At the same time, new federal and state laws are cracking down on convicted offenders like never before. Some Arizona laws just took effect or will likely be proposed in coming months:

  • The state would send e-mail blast notices to residents warning when a sex offender moved into their neighborhood. Residents could sign up for the alerts.
  • A state sex-offender Web site could carry the names, photos and locations of thousands of low-level offenders. Now, it posts only the most serious ones, about a quarter of all registered offenders. The change would keep offenders on the site for 15 years, 25 years or life, depending on the crime.
  • As of September, a new law prohibits higher-risk offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care facility. An Arizona Republic database analysis found that at least 298 now live within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care center in Maricopa County.

The Georgia Supreme Court this week tossed out a similar residency law, saying it is unconstitutional to prohibit where sex offenders can live.

For some experts, the declining arrests in the middle of intense public scrutiny is a mystery. The decline in both reported rapes and arrests for sex offenses nationwide began in the early 1990s, before many of today's get-tough measures were implemented.

Other officials say the drop in sex-offense rates and heightened monitoring go hand in hand.

"I think greater public awareness is part of it," said Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler. "It all leads to a decline."

Robson last year sponsored a law that requires registered sex offenders to disclose their e-mail addresses, instant-messaging names and profiles on social-networking sites such as My Space.

He said he is considering pushing a bill next year to prohibit the use of online aliases. He said it is important for laws to keep pace with technology, adding that he is never surprised at "what the criminal mind can conceive."

'Stranger danger'
One of the ironies of the greater scrutiny is the focus on sexual assaults involving strangers. The vast majority of sex offenses are committed by relatives or friends of the victim.

The toughest new laws have arisen from stomach-churning cases involving child abduction and murder by a stranger. Seven-year-old Megan Kanka, for example, was kidnapped, raped and killed in 1994 in New Jersey by a violent repeat sex offender living across the street. Kanka's death inspired Megan's Law, which requires police departments across the country to notify residents when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that there are 603,000 registered sex offenders nationwide. However, the agency maintains that 100,000 of those offenders have failed to keep their registration current and that no one knows where they are.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety reports about 14,500 registered sex offenders live in the state. But the names and photos of only the worst 3,266 offenders appear on its public Web site for monitoring offenders.

Treating sex offenders
Could treatment be a factor in declining sex offenses?

If so, recidivism studies shed a cloudy light. Various studies over decades have found a wide range of recidivism rates. Findings appear to vary according to type of offense and victim, how recidivism is defined and other factors. One Canadian study in 1998 found a recidivism rate of 13 percent for child molesters over four to five years. Another in 2004 found that over 25 years, three in five sex offenders commit a sex crime again.

Sandra Nettles, a licensed clinical social worker with Deer Valley Counseling in Phoenix, says statistics show there is low a recidivism rate among offenders who successfully complete treatment. She works with the state parole department and treats as many as 60 sex offenders a week.

"A one- or two-year treatment program is effective, but it only works as good as a person wants it to work," Nettles said. "They deserve a chance. . . . If they are not allowed to be a pro-social citizen, then they should not let them out (of prison)."

GA - Why not do it right this time?

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It was only a matter of time before the court would conclude that the Legislature erred when it moved ahead without considering the consequences in approving a stern law banning registered sex offenders from living anywhere they would be likely to encounter a child. In 2006, the General Assembly adopted a heavy-handed measure that restricted registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, churches or other areas, such a playgrounds or bus stops, where children congregate. In doing so, according to Justice Carol Hunstein who wrote the unanimous opinion for the Georgia Supreme Court, it left "no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being rejected."

The obvious but overlooked - or ignored - consequence was quite clear: If a registered sex offender cannot find a place to live and work, then that person is going to stop reporting his or her whereabouts to law-enforcement authorities, making it impossible to locate them. The law, which the Legislature approved despite repeated warnings it would force sex offenders to break the law, had been targeted by civil rights groups who told the court the law makes matters worse, not better. And numerous local law enforcement authorities also have said they would be unable to effectively enforce the law with present levels of staffing.

The real culprit here is the Legislature, which frequently takes the easy way out when deciding difficult questions. It was easier for Georgia's lawmakers to rush through a law that most of them certainly should have suspected would not withstand judicial review - many of them, after all, are lawyers. Instead, they have a proclivity toward adopting measures that feel good and sound good to the public - until the consequences of their laziness becomes apparent and the flaws appear.

Now the General Assembly needs to do what it should have done in the first place: Sit down and draft a comprehensive law that offers a measure of protection to children - and others - while not making registration requirements so unreasonable that offenders will simply ignore the law and disappear.

TX - Amarillo Subdivision Bans Sex Offenders

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AMARILLO - A subdivision in northwest Amarillo has implemented deed restrictions barring convicted sex offenders from owning or living in any new homes.

G.R. Chapman Limited Partnership said the restriction will apply to future development within The Woodlands. The 550 existing homes are not affected.

“We want to try to have a community that is safe all the way around,” developer Justin Chapman said.

The deeds for new homes will stipulate that a homeowner cannot sell the home if the buyer or a future inhabitant is a sex offender. Violators will be required to sell the home and move.

Kent Canada, an attorney for the developer, said the homeowners association will conduct periodic checks of the Texas Department of Public Safety online database of registered sex offenders. The group will be empowered to take legal action against violators, he said.

Federal law prohibits discrimination based on factors including race, religion, gender and age. But court challenges to similar sex offender bans have been unsuccessful, Canada said.

“Obviously, it is a property rights issue, and the developer certainly has a right to place that restriction on their property,” said Randy Jeffers, an Amarillo real estate broker and president of the Texas Association of Realtors. “It’s a position that the Texas Association of Realtors certainly wouldn’t oppose.”

Greg Lines, legal chair for the High Plains Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the sex offender ban could unfairly lump a wide range of offenders together. He cited an example of a man who was required to register as a sex offender because of a streaking incident.

The Lubbock subdivision of Milwaukee Ridge has a similar ban on sex offenders. Developer John Sellers said reaction has been positive.

“Before closing, we run a background check on the people that will be living in the house,” Sellers said. “If we find out that whoever’s going to be living there has a prior sex offense conviction, they’re not allowed to live in the house. If everything checks out, they’re welcome to move in.”

IN - Lawyer challenges to federal sex registry

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VALPARAISO - Local attorney Bryan Truitt is challenging the constitutionality of a federal sex offender registry law, in part on the grounds it illegally treads on rights reserved for the states.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which requires sex offenders to keep their registration current no matter where they live, is invalid under the 10th Amendment because it has not been adopted by most states, including Indiana, Truitt said.

The requirements also have nothing to do with interstate commerce and thus Congress has no power to require the rules be implemented by the states, he said.

Truitt further accused Congress of improperly delegating to the attorney general the power to decide how to apply the law to defendants accused of violating the requirements before they took effect. This is the case with his client, who is accused of violating the registry law before it took effect July 27, 2006.

"These are decisions of Congress," he wrote.

Truitt filed the challenge before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Robert Miller Jr. on behalf Marcus Dixon, who is accused of failing to register as a sex offender when he cut an electronic monitoring bracelet off his ankle and moved from South Carolina to Michigan City during May 2006. He now faces up to 10 years behind bars, as compared to 90 days under South Carolina law and up to one year under the former federal law.

A bench trial is scheduled in the case Dec. 20, which means Miller should rule on the motion to dismiss before that time, Truitt said.

In addition to challenging the overall Constitutionality of the law, Truitt argues the case against his client should be dismissed because Dixon was never made aware of the new registration requirements. The requirements have also never been adopted by either Indiana or South Carolina and it was "therefore impossible for Dixon to have registered."

To Catch a Canadian Predator In Canada

These people who show up at these houses like this, are just plain stupid.

WI - Angry Neighbors Meet About Convicetd Sex Offender

FL - Teen house party: Sex, stripper poles, and pornography

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Think of the worst party you would NEVER ever want your teen to go to. That's what some neighbors and deputies uncovered after a house party got out of control.

Neighbors knew the man who owned a home on Thrush Avenue in Buckingham had parties on occasion. Sometimes they say it got a little rowdy. But a call to 9-1-1 and a passed out teen exposed a disturbing world of alcohol, sex, stripper poles, and pornography.

"I was appalled. I was heartbroken actually," said a neighbor.

One neighbor spoke with us on the condition we wouldn't release their name or show you what they look like. The neighbor is one of several who went over to help when emergency crews arrived. Then deputies showed up and they went inside.

"The whole living room had a stage built with a pole, and there were these of them was like, 'I am almost 15'."

"There was a couple (of girls) with nothing on."

The Lee County Sheriff's report says the young teens performed exotic dances, while pornographic movies played on TVs, and others had oral sex.

The report says the host of the party wasn't there when deputies arrived. But the sheriff's office tracked him down a few hours later. Deputies arrested 26-year-old David Rieser. Investigators say Rieser charged the teens a $5 cover to get in.

"Under age kids stripping, having sex in your home...drinking, is a misdemeanor. I'm appalled," says the neighbor.

Rieser got out of jail and faces a misdemeanor charge of hosting a house party for minors with alcohol or drugs. Neighbors told us they think he got off easy because his father is a deputy for the Lee County Sheriff's office.

Sheriff Mike Scott says there's no way that's the case.

"I think it's a little inappropriate that the neighbors say we some how covered for his 26-year-old son, he's an adult a full grown man," says Sheriff Scott.
- And they are underage kids!

In fact he says Rieser could face more charges.

"We're in the business of throwing the book at em' so to speak, we don't hold back on charges," says Sheriff Scott.