What is Megan’s Law?
Megan’s Law in a nutshell is that sex offenders are required to register with local police, and that police agencies provide that information to the public. The problem is that many people do not know how to find the information. Also, there is no requirement for police agencies to notify the general public when registered sex offenders move into the community. They only are required to make the information available.
The laws today are named for Megan Kanka who was seven years old when Jesse Timmendequas, a repeated violent sexual offender who lived across the street from her, kidnapped, raped, and murdered her. Timmendequas was found guilty, and was on New Jersey’s death row. In December 2007, New Jersey ended the death penalty. Timmendequas will now serve life without parole. – Wikipedia
Megan’s Law was enacted on May 17th, 1996. Megan’s Law mandates that every state develop a procedure for notifying residents of sex offenders residing there.
What is the Intent of the Law?
The origins of Megan’s Law began with state level attempts to protect communities from sexual offenders. Prior to formal legislation, private citizens groups sometimes distributed information regarding specific offenders in their areas. In 1990, Washington adopted one of the first statewide laws, the Washington State Community Protection Act of 1990.
How Effective is the Law?
The successes of the law are not disputable. There are public access sites for every state, and a federal site – 51 in total, available to anyone. What is in the site(s). Most sites have an available search by name and by zip code. Some give maps, some give photos – but the sites are not all the same. The sites do provide you with good and up to date information. The only problem is – they do not notify you of updates and changes. So I give the law itself, and the States’ responses a grade of B for how your family is protected.
Can You do More?
The short answer is yes. You can do more to protect your family – you can sign up for red alerts from the National Alert Registry. It is not free, but you can judge for yourself if it is worth the small monthly charge to be informed when a registered sex offender moves in to your neighborhood. The main issue is not to sign up for the service – the main issue is to keep yourself informed.