03/02/11

FORUM: BILL WOULD KEEP BETTER TABS ON SEXUAL PREDATORS

The following commentary was printed in theThe North County Times on March 10, 2011:

By Nathan Fletcher and Bill Horn

Last year, San Diego County was rocked by the tragic deaths of two teenage girls. It was a terrible reminder that violent sexual predators live among us and we have to work together to do everything possible to protect our children. It is imperative that policies at all levels of government work to keep our residents informed and engaged in keeping the justice system accountable and reinforcing the bonds of family and community.

Last year, we pledged to review everything we do and try to find a better way. How can we utilize technology? What are the most effective methods and techniques? Where are reforms needed?

Chelsea's Law, and legislation sponsored by the family of Amber Dubois and passed, certainly made our state safer. However, in our continued vigilance, we have found that sometimes the law is slow to keep up with technology. A new generation of innovation offers a new way to look at an old problem.

In an age where information is readily available and news reporting is nearly instantaneous, government is charged with finding better ways to inform people. We should be embracing the means to directly communicate with our constituents on a real-time basis. An e-mail alert system notifying subscribers about the movements of registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods is exactly the kind of direct communication the public deserves and local governments should be able to provide.

But state law allows information regarding registered sex offenders ---- including name, age, photo and address ---- to be available to the public only via a website: the Megan's Law website, operated by the attorney general's office. While this is an accurate source of up-to-date information, it requires a person to seek out and continually revisit the website.

The Megan's Law website does not highlight recent changes or additions to a resident's area of interest. Instead, it is up to the concerned party to keep track of any changes, which can be difficult, since sex offenders are often transient and change residences many times a year.

Assembly Bill 1022 would solve this problem and enhance the ability of local governments to protect and inform their citizens. By enabling local governments and law enforcement agencies to provide community notifications through Internet websites and e-mail subscriptions, we will be utilizing technology to promote safer neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for residents of San Diego County. On its surface, AB 1022 may look like a small change to state law, but it will have a major positive effect on the safety of the public.

Join us in the fight to protect innocent lives. Contact your state legislator and urge support of AB 1022.

NATHAN FLETCHER represents the 75th State Assembly district. BILL HORN represents District 5 on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.