The Coastal Post - September, 1998

Megan's Law: The First Year

By Attorney General Dan Lungren

Prior to the implementation of Megan's Law, law enforcement could not release information to the public regarding an individual's convictions for sex offenses or the requirement to register as a sex offender. Even if children were in close contact with a child molester, such as a Little League umpire or coach, officers would be breaking the law by providing parents with this information.

California's Megan's Law went into effect on September 26, 1996. By October 1, 1996, officers with the Hanford Police Department conducted the first public notification allowed by Megan's Law. The agency distributed flyers to the management and residents of a residential motel notifying them that a "serious" sex offender convicted of child molestation was residing at the motel. The flyer included the name, photograph, convictions, and parole conditions of the sex offender.

Since Megan's Law went into effect, law enforcement has successfully helped countless children and families escape the devastating intentions of sexual predators-it's one of law enforcement's best tools for crime prevention.

This month, my office released "California's Megan's Law-The First Year: Lifting the Shroud of Secrecy," a report on the law and its effectiveness in our state. During the first year, more than 24,000 Californian's searched-for sex offenders on our CD-ROM. We fielded just under 8,000 inquiries to our Sex Offender Identification Line, and more than 8,000 residents throughout California were notified about sex offenders.

Following are some examples of identifications made through the Megan's Law CD-ROM or law enforcement disseminations:

A Sacramento County woman viewed the CD-ROM the first week it became available. While searching her zip code, she recognized a man who frequently played with children in a community swimming pool. He had previous convictions for lewd or lascivious acts with a child. The woman warned other parents about his background. A father, concerned because his daughter was in frequent contact whit the man, called the Sheriff's Department. Upon investigation, the sex offender was arrested and charged with violating his probation, failure to properly register as a sex offender, and additional charges of child molestation. He was subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

In San Bernardino County, a woman recognized a man involved with the local Little League as being a "high risk" sex offender. She was concerned because he had been involved with the league for a number of years and he wasn't living in the zip code area in which he was listed. Local authorities were notified, and following an investigation, the sex offender was arrested. He currently is under investigation for the molestation of at least eight teenage boys.

A man viewed the Megan's Law CD-Rom to confirm that his ex-wife's boyfriend, with whom she lived, was a registered sex offender. The man's two young daughters also lived with his ex-wife, who was not aware of the registrant's previous conviction for lewd or lascivious acts with a child. The father obtained a restraining order, making it illegal for the sex offender to have contact with this children.

In Orange County, the local police agency had distributed flyers identifying an individual as a "high risk" sex offender. A 14-year-old girl was walking home from school when she was contacted by a man in a vehicle asking for directions to the freeway. He attempted to lure her to the car, but she refused because she thought he looked like the individual listed on the "Special Bulletin High Risk Sex Offender" flyer she had seen at home. She immediately left the area and returned home to confirm that the man in the car was the same person featured on the flyer. Local law enforcement agencies were notified and subsequently arrested the sex offender for violating the conditions of his parole by having contact with a minor. He had previous convictions for lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age, with a child 14 or 15, and oral copulation with a person under 18 years of age.

A bus driver who transported disabled children was identified as a "serious" sex offender with previous convictions for child molestation. He is now under investigation for the molestation of two disabled children who rode the bus.

An Orange County resident found a neighbor listed as a "serious" sex offender while viewing the CD-ROM at the sheriff's department. The man had recently befriended her son. The local police department investigated the situation and is now pursuing a case against the convicted sex offender.

Residents in San Luis Obispo County viewed the CD-ROM looking for a neighbor who had recently moved from out of state. Local authorities determined that the man should be listed as a "serious" sex offender due to his out-of-state convictions. He is now on the CD-ROM because of the actions taken by the concerned neighbors.

A property manager of a large apartment complex in San Mateo County found a custodian employed by the complex listed as a "serious" sex offender convicted of child molestation. The custodian had a master key to more than 250 units. The man was relocated to a different job, in which he has no contact with children.

These are just a few examples in which sex offenders were identified and positive actions resulted. These actions may have helped prevent future offenses, as they either removed the known offender from a situation where others are vulnerable, or provided potential victims with information they could use to protect themselves and others.

Since the passage of Megan's Law in California, law enforcement has been able to arm families with the knowledge to protect themselves against sexual predators. It can be considered the crown jewel of our efforts to bring focus to the presence of sex offenders in our communities who have an overwhelming tendency to repeat their crimes. Surely the many parents who have viewed the CD-ROM and discovered that their son or daughter's soccer coach, shoe salesman or summer camp counselor is a registered sex offender would agree that Megan's Law is working effectively in California.

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