Every time he does, residents flood the Middleboro Police Department with phone calls – that’s because the man is a registered sex offender.
But Middleboro Police Chief Bruce Gates has the same response for the callers – there is nothing he can do, because the man has committed no crime.
“That’s not an arrestable offense,” he said of the toys. “Is it ethically or morally proper? Absolutely not.”
Gate’s dilemma raises two questions: Does having the registry make the public safer or does it unfairly target sex offenders? Local law enforcement officials say the law – which requires sex offenders to register with the local police department – does protect people, but some residents are more ambivalent, and a defense lawyer said the rules can punish people who’ve already paid their debt to society.
“If someone does not register according to the statute, we’re very proactive in arresting them immediately,” Brockton Police Chief Emanuel Gomes said Thursday. “We work very quickly to track people down.”
Brockton displays photos of all Level 3 sex offenders – those deemed most likely to offend again – on the wall of the station’s lobby, “so people can protect themselves and protect their children,” Gomes said.
To learn about other offenders – those classified as Level 1 or 2 – residents must ask.
Other departments, such as Raynham, also have the photos posted, but many departments don’t display the photos, instead providing the information when asked, or referring people to the state sex offender registry website.
“We want the residents to know who these people are,” Gomes said.
Brockton, with 63 Level 3 offenders alone, has one detective assigned solely to tracking sex offenders in the city, police Lt. Paul Bonanca said.
“Knowledge is power. We feel as though the information being disseminated is certainly a public advantage,” Bonanca said.
But defense attorney Joseph Krowski Jr. said the sex offender registry is not fair to the people it lists, who have either already served their sentence or have been placed on probation.
“An aspect of that is rehabilitation and reintegrating (the offenders) into society,” Krowski said. “The registry program runs counter to that (goal) as presently constructed.”
Krowski said there is a “huge” problem with homeless offenders not being able to register.
Krowski also does not believe the registry makes people safer. Studies have shown that most sexual crimes committed to children are done by a family or household member or someone known to the family, he said, and “in that regard, the sexual offender registry has little or no impact.”
Some local residents welcome the information and wish it were easier to access.
Jay Tocci, shopping at the Target in Easton, said she wished the information was better publicized.
“It would make me feel better if it was more public and more open,” she said. “But it’s good to have the info there.”
Kristen Dunmead, of Easton, said she had looked up the registry years ago, before her kids were born.
“It does make me feel safer,” she said, but added that she recently bought a house in Easton, but hadn’t checked the neighborhood before doing so on the registry.
Many police departments keep track of their community’s offenders. In many suburban police departments, a sergeant is assigned to do so.
Gates believes the registry’s existence helps keep the public safer.
“I think it does help,” he said. “It’s a lot better than the public not knowing anything. And I think they ought to know.”
Raynham police records keeper Jeff Finch says Raynham is luckier than some towns because, of the 16 registered sex offenders in town, all but one are homeowners. The Level 3 offenders’ photos are posted at the station.
“We’re fortunate that we have none at our apartment complexes,” Finch said.
But Finch said it is rare that residents inquire about the lists.
Enterprise Staff Reporter Amy Carboneau contributed to this report.
How the Sex Offender Registry Board works
- The state’s Sex Offender Registry has been operational since October 1996. The Sex Offender Registry Board is responsible for maintaining a computerized database of convicted sex offenders and, after a hearing, classifying the dangerousness of each offender. The aim is to provide the public with information about dangerous sex offenders who live or work in each community. The Sex Offender Registry Board says its goal is to educate the public and to prevent further victimization.
- The Sex Offender Registry Board classifies people convicted of any one of more than 25 sex crimes. Level 3’s are considered the most dangerous and at high risk to reoffend. Level 2’s are at moderate risk, and Level 1’s are at low risk.
- Pictures and personal information about Level 3’s are available on the board’s website, searchable by name and community. Information on Level 2’s in a community can be obtained through the local police department (you have to go and ask), while Level 1 data is not released to the public.
- The system the board uses to determine the dangerousness of an individual is based primarily on 24 factors that have been approved by the state Supreme Judicial Court. The factors include evidence of substance abuse, response to treatment, the victim impact statement, the age of the offender when the offense occurred, the relationship between the offender and the victim, and whether the victim was a child. Age of the offender at the time of classification is not listed in those factors, but board officials say they consider it. Sexual offenders over the age of 60 are generally considered less likely to commit similar crimes again than younger offenders.
- The Sex Offender Registry Board consists of seven people appointed by the governor for terms of six years, with the exception of the chairman. Board members “shall devote their full time during business hours to their official duties.” State law says the board must include “one person with experience and knowledge in the field of criminal justice who shall act as chairman; at least two licensed psychologists or psychiatrists with special expertise in the assessment and evaluation of sex offenders and who have knowledge of the forensic mental health system; at least one licensed psychologist or psychiatrist with special expertise in the assessment and evaluation of sex offenders, including juvenile sex offenders, and who has knowledge of the forensic mental health system; at least two persons who have at least five years of training and experience in probation, parole or corrections; and at least one person who has expertise or experience with victims of sexual abuse. Members shall be compensated at a reasonable rate subject to approval of the secretary of administration and finance. The chairman of the Sex Offender Registry Board is the chief executive in charge of the operation of the registry and can be removed by the governor at any time.”
our source: Enterprisenews.com