Tags: Adam Walsh Act, Families Affirming Community Safety, Find Sex Offenders, Find Sex Offenders in Nebraska, Find Sex Offenders in Your Neighborhood, HomeFacts, LB 285, LB285, Nebraska Sex Offender Registry, Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska State Patrol SOR, sex offender law, sex offender map, sex offender registry, SOR, SORNA
Archive for category News Stories
FACTS has located a reporter who knows the difference between a publicity stunt and a real news story. Her name is Diane Dimond and she lives in Rockland County, New York (although the column reprinted here was published in the Albuquerque Journal). We wish there was someone like her in Douglas County, Neb.
FACTS has challenged the Douglas County Sheriff to produce evidence that there is higher risk of registrant crime on Halloween to justify the Sheriff’s Halloween Hoax Former Offender Harassment Patrol, which is covered by gullible local reporters like a real news story. Reporter Dimond says there is no such evidence. Registrants who live in areas that might be targeted by this year’s Hoax Patrol can download this version of the column we reprint here and hand it out in their neighborhoods. Send it to your local news media as well.
Diane Dimond covers crime and justice and her work appears in the Albuquerque Journal and other daily newspapers. The column below was published on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. She is not a member of an advocacy group. Yet she writes here that practices like the Douglas County Sheriff’s Halloween Hoax Patrol “are really no different from isolating segments of the population and branding them with a scarlet “A” as an adulterer or with a Star of David as a Jew. Shame on us. It is time to declare these Halloween laws for what they are: unconstitutional.” Here is her complete column:
Halloween Laws Scapegoat Sex Offenders
by Diane Dimond
Crime and Justice
Here we go again. Law enforcement officers nationwide are about to stage their annual pre-Halloween effort to make sure everyone listed on the local Sex Offenders Registry knows – imagine this being said in a spooky voice with a scary laugh at the end – They Are Being Watched!
This annual charade is also supposed to help the community feel safer. I’m here to tell you it is nonsense.
The intimidation campaign is a silly diversion of manpower and a waste of your tax dollars. Police and the politicians who are in search of tough-on-crime votes will tell you otherwise, but don’t believe the myth that Halloween is the night child sexual predators wait all year for.
The facts tell a different story.
Those on the registry – convicts who have done their time and are trying hard to blend back into the population – will likely get a personal visit from officers. Depending on the state in which they live, they may be told that they must stay home on Halloween night, that they must keep their lights off and not answer the door. Many will be required to display a sign that reads something like: “No Candy at This Residence.”
There could be other restrictions, too: No holiday decorations outside the home; no dressing up in costume; no attending holiday parties, haunted houses, hay rides or any other Halloween activity where children gather.
Now, let’s look at the facts.
Over the last several decades there has not been one reported instance that I can find of a convicted sex offender molesting a child on Halloween night. Shall I repeat that? Despite all the hysteria, I couldn’t find evidence of even one case. Further, a huge majority of these convicts never re-offend.
The only Halloween tragedy my research turned up was back in 1973 in Milwaukee, where a 9-year-old girl, trick-or-treating by herself, went to the home of a stranger named Gerald Turner. Turner, a man with no criminal record, raped and killed the child. Using today’s guidelines Turner wouldn’t even warrant a visit, since he was not a known molester.
Fact: Our sex registry system is foolish. It lumps in everyone who ever mooned or streaked or urinated in public with hard-core career pedophiles. A registrant may have been a teenager caught with a girlfriend in the back seat; the victim of a vindictive ex-wife who made abuse allegations; or a man who, legitimately, believed his partner was older than 18.
Whether a public urinator or Jerry Sandusky, they all occupy the same space on our misguided registry. And in four states – California, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida – once placed on the list, the offender is there for life.
Anyone with half a brain knows it’s the dedicated pedophile – that person who will always choose a child for sex over an adult – who we should spend our time watching. So why aren’t we?
Fact: No matter what you’ve heard, sex offenders rarely repeat their crimes. Studies by Dr. Jill Levenson – and funded by the U.S. Department of Justice – have concluded the recidivism rate for sex-related convicts is about 5 percent to 5.3 percent. That is a whole lot lower than the recidivism rate for burglars, robbers, murderers or those who commit assault or drive drunk.
Yet those convicts are not restricted in how they can live their lives after the justice system is done with them.
In my opinion, every time an officer hassles a registrant around Halloween, the officer is violating that person’s civil rights. These people are already severely restricted on where they can live, work, worship and seek entertainment. Their home addresses and past crimes are listed on the Internet for all to see. What will the politicians and the police think up next? How about curbing the sex offender’s movements around July Fourth or Christmas?
California attorney Janice Bellucci has just filed suit to stop Simi Valley, Calif., from enforcing its new ordinance mandating Halloween harassment. The suit claims the law “suppresses and unduly chills protected speech and expression.”
Bellucci, the wife of a minister, became interested in the issue after her longtime plumber wrote a book (“We’re All in This Together,” by Frank Lindsay) about his experience as a sex registry lifer.
“When I read it I was shocked,” Bellucci told me on the phone. “So shocked that any group in our society would be treated that way.”
Bellucci worked with rape victims for years, so she sees both sides of the problem. But she filed suit on behalf of 10 registrants and their family members because, “People naturally like to commit mischief on Halloween. I fear someone could see that sign outside their front door and set the (registrant’s) house on fire … or shoot a gun into the home.”
She’s hoping the California court will strike down the law before the end of October.
The fact is, worried parents and police should be watching everyone on Halloween and not just one segment of the population that, statistically, is so unlikely to commit a crime. To do otherwise puts our children in danger.
How about diverting manpower to check for drug dealers or drunken drivers careering through darkened neighborhoods full of costumed kids?
Think about this. These Halloween laws are really no different from isolating segments of the population and branding them with a scarlet “A” as an adulterer or with a Star of David as a Jew. Shame on us. It is time to declare these Halloween laws for what they are: unconstitutional.
– email to Diane@DianeDimond.net.>
AND WHY WON’T THEY REPORT ON
WASTING LAW ENFORCEMENT RESOURCES
ATTACKING A PROBLEM THAT DOES NOT EXIST?
Last year the Omaha news media were hoodwinked into covering the Douglas County, Neb., Sheriff’s Great Halloween Offender Patrol Hoax like it was real news. (Once upon a time, news people prided themselves on ignoring publicity stunts. Seems that era is gone).
Lisa Sample, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, says these stunts do have one effect: They increase fear in the public. Dr. Sample arguably is the most informed person in the region about registrants and the law.
When law enforcement can instill fear, it can more easily trample your rights while ignoring its duty of actually protecting the public. Here’s something you can do about it: Share this post with all of your friends and neighbors so that when they see the news story about the Halloween Hoax Patrol, they will know it for what it is: An empty publicity stunt.
So what is the real news question for the Douglas County Sheriff’s office? This: Why are you diverting precious law enforcement resources to attack a problem that does not exist?
Our sister organization, Nebraskans Unafraid, has made sure the news media have context and accurate information this year. We’ll see if anyone uses it. Here is the letter NU sent to the news media:
Do you know that non-family sex crimes against children on Halloween are virtually non-existent? According to four respected researchers, there is no reason to waste law enforcement resources on publicity stunts like “Halloween sex-offender patrols.” The researchers are Mark Chaffin, University of Oklahoma; Jill Levenson, Lynn University; Elizabeth Letourneau, Medical University of South Carolina; and Paul Stern of Snohomish, Wash. Here is their conclusion:
“This study found no significant increase in risk for non-familial child sexual abuse on or around Halloween.” (Research summary enclosed). The study spanned nine years of data, 1997-2005. The researchers said that “Halloween” policies (such as the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office sex-offender publicity stunt) have no impact on crime. Quoting the researchers:
“The most common types of crime from among the incidents reported on Halloween and adjacent days were theft (32%), destruction or vandalism of property (21%), assault (19%) and burglary (9%). Vandalism and property destruction accounted for a greater proportion of crime around Halloween compared to other days of the year (21% vs. 14% of all reports). Sex crimes of all types accounted for slightly over 1% of all Halloween crime. Non-familial sex crimes against children age 12 and under accounted for less than two-tenths of 1 percent of all Halloween crime incidents.”
A Nebraska nonprofit group, Families Affirming Community Safety Inc. (FACTS), last year publicly challenged the Douglas County Sheriff’s office to produce evidence that a registrant had ever harmed a child on Halloween in Douglas County – EVER. The sheriff could not produce any such evidence. He did cite Halloween-patrol arrests from another jurisdiction, but those arrests were NOT for crimes against kids. They were for technical violations of laws such as requiring registrants to shut off porch lights on Halloween.
Please contact Lisa L. Sample, Ph.D., a criminal justice expert, so that you may provide accurate context for any Halloween registrant patrol stories.
For more information, contact
Omaha-based Criminal Justice Expert Lisa L. Sample, Ph.D.
Dr. Sample is Professor and Reynolds Professor of Public Affairs and Community Service, University of Nebraska-Omaha. She is also the Masters Program Coordinator for the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. She conducts research in juvenile and criminal justice sentencing disparities, drug control policies, prison reentry programs, and sex offender behavior and policies.
So the people who accused Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine were just lying after all. We wonder if Syracuse will do anything to make up for the fact that it jumped the gun, took action based on lies and fired Fine. Probably not. Cowards who rush to judgment regarding spurious sexual accusations never admit it when they are proven to be wrong.
Neither scheming politicians nor abusive law enforcement are able to keep themselves from acting out of ignorance and fear on this issue. It is up to organizations like FACTS to continue educating the public and holding public officials accountable. Please support us so that we may continue our work.
FACTS has called out legislators who engage in the grimy and disgusting habit of attaching the name of a dead child to a proposed law. Such legislation is designed to allow the legislator to capitalize and win votes on the grave of a poor dead child victim. Such laws are designed to benefit the person who introduces them, and no one else. It is a cynical political game of the worst kind.
Nebraska State Sen. Pete Pirsch played the game again today (Feb. 22, 2012). He brought his version of “Caylee’s Law” to the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. Pirsch wants to make it a crime for a grieving parent to fail to immediately call the police about the death of his or her child. The problem the law purports to correct is already covered by existing law. There is no need for this travesty of a bill, which is an embarrassment to serious public policymaking.
The sole purpose of this legislation is to get attention for Pirsch. He got the correct form of attention today.
The Committee won’t be burned again by grandstanding legislation that at the end of the day is nothing but attention-grabbing gibberish. It correctly sent the bill back for some serious reworking. We suggest that Sen. Pete move on to the next publicity opportunity.
Well done, Judiciary.
Missouri’s initiative to remove non-dangerous offenders from the state’s public shaming former offender website has the support of law enforcement. Here’s an excerpt from the latest story on this enlightened legislation:
“Sheriff of Cape Girardeau County and President of the Missouri Sheriffs Association John Jordan agrees, saying the current registry gives people a false sense of security. He used the analogy of holding a box of 100 spiders when in fact only a few of them are poisonous. He too admits the registry process is something that needs changing, but ‘It scares folks when you do it.’ ”
So Missouri has state lawmakers and law enforcement folks who have the courage to admit that the all-inclusive public shaming website is a failure and needs to be changed. Call it the courage to confront popular stupidity. In addition to improving public safety, this change will improve Missouri’s economy, because it will end the homelessness and joblessness that are the consequences of public-shaming websites like the one we have in Nebraska.
You have to wonder if Nebraska will ever catch up to Missouri?
“In short, there’s no evidence that the public is being protected by the public registry in its current configuration. With our public registry, the public is not able to sort out who the true threats to society are.”
Meanwhile, in Louisiana, a federal judge ruled that state’s Facebook restriction law unconstitutional. Read about it here.
Of the 14,400 people released from Connecticut prisons in 2005, nearly 80 percent were rearrested by 2010, and just under half returned to prison with new sentences, according to a just-completed report that contains the most detailed data ever compiled on the state’s recidivism rate.
The report, by Office of Policy and Management statistical guru Ivan Kuzyk, is scheduled to be released Wednesday. It also separately tracked sex offenders within the group and found that only a small number committed new sex crimes.
For example, of the 746 inmates who had served a prison term on a sex charge, 27, or 3.6 percent, were charged with a new sex crime; 20, or 2.7 percent, were convicted; and 13, or 1.7 percent, were returned to prison with a sentence for a new sex crime.
That suggests sex offenders respond well to supervision and treatment, and don’t commit new sex crimes at the rate the public thinks they do, said Michael Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s chief of criminal-justice policy. Read more in the Hartford Courant.
The cheap politicians’ trick of residency restrictions is being discussed in Omaha just when national news shows that the threats to our children do NOT live NEAR schools. They ARE IN OUR SCHOOLS. Let’s stop dumb lawmaking and shallow news reporting.
In Nebraska, we might have lots of folks who stole a kiss on New Year’s Eve headed for jail.
Then again, maybe not.
State Sen. Bill Avery is having second thoughts about his idea to criminalize unwanted kissing. A lot of folks think it’s just a dumb idea. Not to mention unenforceable. Go over to Nebraskans Unafraid to learn more.