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"Signing" Up Sex Offenders - Shelli's Column 04-11-10

Benton Alderman Brad Moore is proposing putting an identifying sign in the yard of sex offenders in the area. I heard about this over a week ago and thought it was an issue that deserved a thorough examination, so I solicited opinions from local residents. I'll share a few here, but there are many others on MySaline.com. Names with an asterisk are the screen name, not the actual name of the person commenting.

The first opinion is in favor of signs as a means to discourage sex offenders from living in a given city. Ed Collins, Bryant Alderman and former law enforcement officer writes, "I for one would vote to pass that ordinance, if it was constitutionally legal to have. I do not wish to have a convicted sex offender living next to me or in my neighborhood or city. I would not want to look out the window and see my child playing pass with a convicted sex offender."
Chris* in Benton says, "I like the idea. There are some in Benton right now that would truly disgust the large majority of any community. The issue will probably be stuck on the level of the offender. Does an 18- or 19-year-old who [angered] the parents of his underage girlfriend deserve to have a sign at his parents house, just like the old man who kidnapped and raped multiple girls throughout an extended period?"

Sam in Bryant is against the signs, saying, "One could make the argument that signs be placed in the yards of all former criminals. If that happened, it would signal the end of subdivisions as we know it. That's why sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement. And that's why they have websites like www.acic.com."

Kenneth, a Benton business owner agrees with Sam, saying, "All it will do is devalue property. You have something like that sitting in your neighborhood and you will never sell another house in it."

Pam of Benton gives us an analogy using the initial HIV scare of the 80s. "Some in healthcare lobbied that it should be mandatory that people who were HIV positive be flagged to protect all who may come in contact with them. Opponents to that school of thought said that absence of a flag would give a false sense of security to healthcare workers since a person may have the virus before they test positive. The end result was that healthcare workers adopted universal precautions regarding blood and body fluids, meaning you treat all blood and body fluid as if it were infected."

Her point is to be careful with everyone, since it's next to possible to know who the offender may be when the offense hasn't yet taken place.. "There are sexual predators among us everywhere that are never caught and will never be on a registry or have a sign in their yard. It is the residents without signs I worry about!"

Ed, a Bryant resident, chimes in on a lighter note, though I'm not sure whether he was serious: "In their yard? How about a big tattoo on their face?"

It seems like he's kidding at first, but then he relates a story about a relative who barely escaped a rape attempt when two witnesses rescued her. "He had previous multiple accounts of rape and was convicted for attempted in this case. He was sentenced to four years in jail and was out in less than two.He should already be in jail for rape. Lo and behold he moves into the apartment that her mother lives in with his wife and kid. Being exposed he moves into a house near a school and only after being exposed again did he have to move.
How does a guy with multiple rape charges get caught red handed and walk the streets?"

Benton Alderman, Doug Stracener poses a rhetorical, "What systems identify where these people work, where they shop or eat dinner? Placing placards on their place of residency does nothing to prevent them from looking for victims in other areas far away from their residence."

He goes on, "I believe a better approach would be to establish a system whereby their faces, names, address and last known place of employment is broadcast via internet or local public access television on a regular basis. If people see the faces of these monsters, know who they are, where they work then they will be less likely to becoming a victim."

Moore posts a copy of his letter of request for Benton's Public Safety Commission to study the issue. In it he writes, "I believe it would be appropriate for the Benton City Council to pass an ordinance that would make Benton an undesirable destination for Sex Offenders by requiring the placement of an 'all-weather, permanent' sign at their residence that would alert unsuspecting citizens to the fact that a Sex Offender is residing at that home. I am confident there are other stiff requirements that we can include in this proposed ordinance as well that would motivate these individuals to bypass Benton as a permanent residence."

Moore follows with responses to some other comments. "Requiring increased public notification is not applicable for every offender, especially slightly underaged consenting teenagers."

Regarding sex offenders overcoming their unnatural desires, Moore says, "I believe we should require some type of perpetual professional counseling/evaluation."

Sam then returns say that he believes the signs would be reactive rather than proactive. People often try to extend the punishment of an individual [only] after they've been released from prison. Contact your legislature and have them change the sentencing laws for sex crimes."

There are many more comments about this on MySaline.com, but I have to point out a possibility that occurred to me. Alderman Moore's goal is sending the message for sex offenders to move away or not move nearby in the first place. While the proposed method of obtaining the goal may not work for this or that reason, the by-product of the proposal is a controversy that could achieve that goal all by itself.

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Comment by Shelli Russell on April 14, 2010 at 12:39pm
Oh...no... Even more chilling than the murder of a 16-month old child is that he only got 40 years and then only served 12! Why is he out? Why don't people like this get the death penalty? What exactly do you have to do to serve life or be executed? Why was this guy on parole? What counseling was he getting? Why did he have all those computers? Should we disallow Internet access for sex offenders?
Comment by Brad Moore on April 12, 2010 at 9:33am
FYI - the Benton Police Department is one of the highest ranked departments in the State of Arkansas in dealing with the sex offenders that reside in Benton.

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