Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Welcome to the Neighborhood

I know a lot of people who read this blog have kids. And some of you have kids who have disabilities, some of you have kids that don't have any. But I think all parents share some fears about their children and their safety, and we all have different ways we go about handling that concern.

One thing we do is sign up for a notification system that lets us know when a registered sex offender moves within a certain distance to our home. This is a very controversial topic in some circles, and I am not saying it should or shouldn't be.

I'm not here to tell anybody what to think.

I am only here to tell you what I think. Or at least...to TRY to muddle through my murky head and try to make heads or tails of what is rattling around inside whatever you want to call my poor substitute for an actual working melon.

I can't even remember when we actually signed up for this service, to be honest, all I know is that we had never received any notifications at all.

Until a week ago.

When this notification was received, I went through a very strange series of emotional responses. Since I had never experienced anything quite like it, I figured I might as well share it. Maybe some of you have gone through the experience before and can say 'Hey man...that's a fairly normal response.' or 'Dude, your cheese done slid off your cracker!'

First Reaction
I look at the guy's picture. I think to myself 'Yup, that guy looks like a child molester.' Now...what gives me the right to even THINK that? And DOES he? Or am I making a judgment based solely on association? Is that fair in the slightest bit whatsoever? Does 'fair' even factor in to an equation like this? Couldn't it also be argued he looks like the long lost cousin of the dude who does voice-work for the 'Beef: It's What's For Dinner?' commercials?

Second Reaction
I went right down and wanted to know what the crime was that he committed and THE SEX of the child he committed it against. When I found out it was a female, I FELT A SENSE OF RELIEF. I then, quite suddenly, was both ashamed of myself and felt very, VERY guilty that I felt that relief. I hoped that whoever that poor girl was, were to I ever encounter her in another world, would be able to forgive me.

I have two boys. And obviously I want to protect them. But should I not also want to protect any of the other children in the neighborhood with, if not equal voracity, at least enough to not feel RELIEF when the discovery is made of this maniac's sexual preference?

I have such a long, long way to go.

Third Reaction
Looked at his address, Googled it, and then looked closely on the map to see where in Galena, if anywhere, our lives might intersect. There is a park in Galena, I wanted to know how close he lived to it. The truth is, he is around 7 miles away, so it isn't THAT likely that I am gonna see him in that particular park. While I was doing that, I wondered if I should print this piece of paper out and put it in the mailboxes of the rest of the homes in our small isolated development for those people who might NOT be subscribed to this service? Which leads to...

Fourth Reaction
Does this creature have any rights at all? Should he? He was convicted of a crime and punished for it, and it was a crime that, to me personally, is not punished harshly enough. Why is he out? But...he did serve his sentence, and if he is indeed now out...do we as a society by making him a pariah help to perpetuate any kind of psychological cycle? To this I have no answer, and it goes back to the entire debate mentioned above.

Certainly it is good to know about the existence of such a person, but how far do you take it? There are some people who think they should be branded, I'm not kidding. Some people think you should lock them away and they should never see the light of day again. Others think sexual predators can actually be rehabilitated.

I don't know what I believe. Frankly I have never had to give it a lot of thought. It has never really been a part of my world, while many other bad things have been.

But it is a part of my world now.

It is such a shame that this beautiful world has to be soiled by the deeds of men both dark and dull.



  1. The notification registry works a little differently out here. I requested the info and was sent a list of names and addresses of registered sex offenders. A long list. No info on the crimes. Which means I could be looking at a list of people who slept with their high school girlfriend when she was just under the legal age of consent and he was just over it-- not folks I'm gonna spend a lot of time worrying about. Or I could be looking at a list of people who have done unimaginably horrible things to children. Some of them live within a mile of my house.

    What are we supposed to do with that information?

    I got the list some years back. I haven't requested an updated list. Maybe I should. I don't know.

    I don't really feel comfortable having that list. There are too many questions about how someone ends up on a list like that. People who get pegged as registered sex offenders because of technicalities (like age of consent laws) make for great new stories so maybe they're over-reported.

    I know the rate of repeat offense is pretty freaking high with child molesters. Which is a big incentive to publicize the hell out of their addresses. I also know most child molesters were abused themselves. So whatever we're doing, it's clearly not enough to break the cycle.

    Don't know what we do. Am I really supposed to tell my 11 year old that she can't be outside without me or her dad with her? But I know some of those addresses are very close to mine.

    I know that momentary sense of relief that your child is safe followed by the guilt. I think that's a pretty common parental feeling. Yes, we care about all kids, but our kids come first. That's how it's supposed to work.

    No answers here, obviously, but it's good to see someone grapple with it publicly. The info's available to us so we're going to have to figure out how to use it.

  2. Just a warning here Ken, be careful with that information you received. While sex offender registries are accessable to the public, that information is also priviledged. I'm not saying you are going to go and find this guy and harrass him, but you never know what others will do/say and if they got the information from you about him and did something, that would be on your conscience.

    There is a guy at my local grocery store who is a level 3 sex offender against little girls and every time I see him and he even glances at my daughters, I have to do everything in my power not to scream at him and tell him to not even glance at my kids.

    As a level 3, they are considered the most likely of sex offenders to re-offend. When released from jail, they are required to report to the police where they live and most likely have received specific instrustions on where they can and cannot live. Also, he may have restrictions against even visiting the park since there are obviously kids going to be there.

    As for an updated list for annikaabel, your state should have a sex offender register website that you can access. I don't know if each state has different rules about what information is included on the registry, but here in NY like in Ohio, they will give a description of the crime, just no specifics. You should be able to do a simple google search of your state and sex offender registry....

    Oh and Ken, I agree with you and thought that the guy looked like a sex offender myself, so you are not alone there.

  3. Wow – for someone who doesn’t have kids, I sure have a lot to say about this.

    One of my basses way back in the day volunteered to “sponsor” an ex-con as a condition of the man’s transition from half-way house back into the free population. As part of the sponsorship, he gave him a job in our office…20 feet from my desk. Every day I had to work with this guy knowing he was a convicted child molester (young girls, usually his vocal and piano students)…and every day I had to act like I didn’t know. I was disgusted, infuriated and incredibly freaked out that this guy was going to be back in the regular mix of people in a few months: he was educated, normal-looking, charming and dangerous as all Hell. Seemingly remorseless, he commented vaguely about his incarceration and seemed to think HE was the victim for being locked up and “having his life taken from” him. He was totally confused why his wife was divorcing him…I think he thought her complaint was that he cheated on her.

    From what I’ve read, the recidivism rate for molestation is crazy-high. It’s high for rape, too. The recidivism rate for murder? Very, VERY low. Yet...our sentencing seems to be based only on punishment, not on protecting the population. Makes my head hurt – it really does.

    With my instincts to protect those I care about (like my students when I was teaching, and my neighborhood kids now), I’m very aware of my fury towards any threat. I check the registry. I want to know where these folks are. I feel it’s my responsibility to know, and to be on guard. I can’t control another person’s actions…but I can remain vigilant.

    I also, however, feel it’s my responsibility to not torment or harm them. Will my harassment save a child? Possibly. Will it add stress that may push a creep over the edge and endanger a child? Probably.

    I am responsible for myself and my actions. I choose to look out for my family and my friends (especially those who can’t protect themselves). I think my best tools for this are concern, knowledge and awareness…and I hope to God I’m right on that…

  4. In Columbus we had one living in our condo facility. Messed up situation because he was living with his girlfriend he wasn't registered as being in our neighborhood. It was only after he had been hanging out at the pool watching our kids for about 8 months did we receive the notification on him. I think some gang bangers eventually threatened him because they didn't like the extra police heat his presence brought to the neighborhood. He still was living there when we moved from Columbus.

    When we moved to our current house we immediately registered to be notified of sex offenders. Turns out we had a couple, one in the apartment next door and one in the apartment behind us, both tier 3 probable repeat offentders. Our second floor bathroom window was directly across from his living room window. I bought a Louisville slugger and for the first time in our married life my wife said it was cool for me to buy a gun. We also have two good sized McGruff dogs who would take a bite out of crime for us.

    Still I struggled to see them as people. I mean at some point they had to be a cute little baby to someone. I did talk to one of them, just sort of a neighborly chat. He was completely gone, he was on Jupiter or some other stellar location. I don't know if that made it better or worse knowing he wasn't in his right mind. Anyways they both eventually moved away.

  5. I think if I was a child molester and had to go in to get my picture taken to be shared with fellow citizens, I might try to avoid the "wife beater" casual, "I don't really give a **** what you think of me." look.

    A level III sex offender targeting CHILD FEMALE (with three charges against him (those are the ones they know about) does not belong in society. We lock up murders for life, they just kill the body. Child molesters kill the psyche, that which makes us who we are as humans. There is a certain percentage of people who are sexually abused who will NEVER get over it. They will spend nearly all of their resources trying to find healing, but never will.

    I'd be a great vigilante...I think about that every once in awhile. I stopped watching Dexter because, well one, I couldn't stand imagining the way he killed his victims but two...I started to realize what a good idea he had, and how one could target not just serial killers but rapists and most of all, child molesters.

    No worries. I have a family. I have to spend that macho rage protecting them.


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