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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thanks to Carole Fennelly for the e-mail that spawned this article. Special
thanks to the fine people at ABP for their excellent resources.