Overlooking the Obvious Database

Brad Chester recently moved two doors down from you. Taking residence in a nice three bedroom house, his landscaping is exquisite. You are quite jealous of his $42,000 BMW and envy his beautiful wife. Every Sunday they share space in the same park as your family, enjoying a picnic lunch and frisbee throwing. During one block party, you spoke with Brad at length about stocks, business, the Internet and girls. He is quite a nice neighbor and willing to help whenever he can. In fact, Brad seems to be the perfect American citizen, the kind of guy you are lucky to have as a neighbor.

Living between the two of you is "Old Man Vran", a nice eldery man well into his retirement. Each morning Vran does some trivial yardwork, walks his widow's two poodles, then sits on the front porch to watch the morning ritual performed by the working class living on his block. Several times a week you talk to Vran, share a beer and discuss how life has changed from when you were kids. You secretly wish your own father could be so gentle, sincere, and well spoken. Your son and daughter look up to him as a surrogate grandfather and enjoy cookies and lemonade at his house on Saturdays.

Checking with one of your favorite crime news resources, you load up the APB web page and see they have a new service available. One page that links to every known network accessable sex offender database. Out of morbid curiosity, you plug your own address into one of the databases in hopes that the nearest offender is three neighborhoods away. Eyes bulge and your mouth drops as you see one of your neighbors listed in the database. It must be some mistake! Just two years ago one of them was released from Adam's County Jail for solicitation of sex from a minor on top of assault! He served a 90 day sentence and was released back into civilization.

Your mind is racing trying to figure out what to do. How do you tell your wife and children that they can no longer talk or be near one of your neighbors. The threat to your children's well being is too great of a risk. You can't stomach the idea that your very own children have been left alone with that bastard!

When word circulates of this horrible news, the residents on Fawn Road will be up in arms. Peaceful suburban America will come crashing down as a veil of silence and distrust descends on the law abiding, morally superior residants. The first person you rush to tell is Old Man Vran. You explain to him what the Internet is, how you access these databases, and the most shocking part, that their neighbor Brad was a known sex offender. After the shock wears off and you discuss it further, Vran escorts you to the door and bids you good night.

Unbeknownst to you, Vran goes back upstairs and resumes cleaning a gun just like the one he used in a botched bank robbery twenty years before. After his fifteen years in a federal prison, he was released early because of good behaviour and 'rehabilitation'. Every night Vran thinks about the thirty three year old woman he shot and killed during the robbery. Every night.

Perhaps I just haven't found the resources yet, or maybe, just maybe I am the only one in America who finds fault in the idea of sex offender databases. While they are a shockingly good idea and effective tool that every citizen should have access to, they beg the question of other crimes. Yes, sex offense crimes are disgusting and serious. But what about crimes that could be considered more serious? Murder, arson, kidnapping and a world of other crimes exist that could pose a serious threat to your family.

The fact that a convicted murderer can move in to the house next door without your knowledge seems to be a gross oversight on the concept of these databases. Public perception and outcry has lead the way for sex offender databases to almost become a mandatory step before moving somewhere. Child protection and anti-rape organizations cry about the victims of these crimes, while every day we seem to forget that the victims of murder have no voice to cry out with. Why do their assailants get to live anywhere they want, with almost complete anonymity?

Brian Martin (
Copyright 1999

Thanks to Carole Fennelly for the e-mail that spawned this article. Special thanks to the fine people at ABP for their excellent resources.