Registry for sex offenders has gaps

800 in Md. are listed with doubtful addresses

July 28, 2005|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Nearly one in five sex offenders might not live at the addresses listed for them in the state registry designed to inform communities of rapists, child predators and other such criminals in their midst, according to numbers provided by the state.

The problems in accounting for the whereabouts of the more than 4,300 offenders in the online database were illustrated this week when the address listed for a convicted rapist who is accused of killing his 13-year-old stepdaughter in Essex was found to be misspelled and unconfirmed.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information from the Baltimore County Police Department, an article on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry in yesterday's Sun incorrectly described the number of registered sex offenders in the county. Baltimore County has about 575 registered sex offenders, including about 375 registered child sex offenders, 150 classified by the state as "sexually violent offenders" and 50 classified as registered "offenders," according to Officer Shawn Vinson.
The Sun regrets the error.

Carl Preston Evans Jr. is one of more than 800 offenders whose addresses are in question or unknown, David P. Wolinski, the official in charge of the Maryland Sex Offender Registry, said yesterday.

"My feeling about this is that these things need to be followed up better," said Wolinski, assistant director of the state's Criminal Justice Information System. "There's a lot of stuff on the table right now as to what we as a state can do to make this a better registry and to have better enforcement of violations."

Experts said yesterday that the number of addresses in question highlights the difficulties of maintaining such a list. The addresses are reported by the offenders, and though the penalty for failing to provide a valid address carries a possible prison term, the office in charge of maintaining the registry has no authority to investigate such violations.

"Sometimes people assume it's reliable," said Pat Cronin, executive director of The Family Tree, a local nonprofit group dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect.

She wasn't surprised, she said, to hear about the error in Evans' listing. "It's only as good as the information they receive," she said. "They try, but sexual offenders are probably the most difficult group to get accurate information from."

State got A+

Maryland's handling of its registry received an A+ rating this year from Parents for Megan's Law, a national advocacy group.

Charles Olney, a research associate with the Center for Sex Offender Management, a project of the U.S. Department of Justice, said, "Accuracy is a problem everywhere. I don't think these databases are worthless, but it is important to note that most sex offenses are committed by people known to the victim, not strangers."

State law first required sex offenders in Maryland to register with authorities in 1995, the year after Congress passed "Megan's Law," which requires states to keep track of registered sex offenders.

The law is named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old girl from Trenton, N.J., who was raped and murdered in 1994 by her neighbor, a convicted pedophile.

Convicted sex offenders have been charged in the killings of two Florida girls in separate incidents this year. A month before one of the killings, the suspect was released from jail, where he had been held on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender at his new address.

This month, Idaho police arrested a registered sex offender in the kidnapping of an 8-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother. The boy's remains were found in a campground.

In May, the federal government announced that it would set up a Web site with state-by-state information on sex offenders, with participation voluntary. Twenty-one states - including Maryland - and the District of Columbia have put their information on the registry.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee marked up a bill that would require a national sex offender registry. The bill would also require a sex offender to register with authorities in person at least once every six months. Failure to register would result in five to 20 years in prison.

`Systematic problems'

That Congress would consider setting up a national registry of sex offenders shows "there must be systematic problems across the board," Russell P. Butler, executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center, said yesterday.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said that in January he will push for legislation in the General Assembly that would require lifetime supervision of violent sex offenders, possibly using global positioning systems.

Curran's plan also calls for specialized training for parole officers working with sex offenders and better treatment for sex offenders while they are incarcerated. The plan would create community meetings for residents to learn about possible threats before a sex offender is released from jail.

Curran said yesterday that if the sexually violent offenders and child predators were supervised for life by specially trained parole officers, as he has proposed, there would probably be fewer errors in the registry.

"Right now, of the 4,300 registered sexual offenders, about 3,000 of them are no longer supervised," Curran said.

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