The Coastal Post - April, 1996

Let's Empower And Trust Local Law Enforcement And The Public

ATTORNEY GENERAL DANIEL E. LUNGREN

A child is afraid of the dark. Why? Because the child cannot be certain that there is nothing dangerous lurking the dark—until he or she turns on the light.

Parents are also in the dark when it comes to knowing whether a paroled rapist or child molester is lurking in their neighborhood, or even next door, thanks to a state law which prohibits law enforcement from affirmatively disclosing to the public the names and whereabouts of registered sex offenders. The law, as it currently stands, provides more protection to the registered sex offender than the public at large.

It is time we turned on the light and revealed the dangerous sex criminals among us who too often use the darkness of anonymity to claim more victims.

With more than 62,000 registered sex offenders in California and 250 new sex offenders released from prison each month, this law must change.

I am sponsoring legislation (AB 1562-Alby, Fair Oaks) to allow law enforcement to disclose to the public the identity and general location of sex offenders when doing so would help secure public safety. Law enforcement is in the best position to decide if a community should be warned of a known, registered sexual predator. We trust law enforcement to protect us and our families from crime. We should also trust their judgment in determining if an individual may be a potential threat to innocent members of the community.

In this day and age, consumers are confronted with warning labels on everything from aspirin to beer to motion pictures. Shouldn't the public also be alerted to the potential danger of sex offenders in their neighborhoods, so that they can take preventive measures to safeguard themselves and their families?

Some people will raise concerns about vigilantism. However, I believe we should give the benefit of the doubt to those of us who go year after year without committing crimes, rather than the other way around.

Last year, California established a Child Molester Identification Line to help parents and other concerned citizens protect children from child molesters, and the same concerns about vigilantism were raised. However, after more than 2,000 calls to the identification line and 236 "hits," there has not been one reported incident of vigilantism. The public, it seems, are more interested in protecting children from child molestation assaults than in assaulting child molesters.

Public information equals public safety. The women and children of California should never again to subject to the fear of the unknown when people like Reginald Muldrew—the so-called "Pillowcase Rapist"—walk out of prison.

Last summer, several senior citizens died during the heat wave in the Midwest. However, it was not only the heat that killed them—it was fear. According to press reports, some of these people literally baked to death because they were afraid to open their windows or doors for fear of crime in their neighborhoods.

We should not be held prisoners inside our own homes. The more information we have the more we can do to protect ourselves. By allowing law enforcement to disclose the identities and whereabouts of sex offenders, we level the playing field for the public.