|Do we need another way to track sex offenders?|
Today, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office announced it was launching "OffenderWatch," a brand new way to be scared of your neighbors.
Simply go to the Sheriff's Office website and click the link that allows you to enter your address -- or any address in the county -- and see instantly how many registered sex offenders live within a two-mile radius. It's updated continually. You can register for email alerts, so that you are notified whenever a registered sex offender moves into your neighborhood. Here's the link:
I have just one question: Why?
What, exactly are you to do with this information? Do you commit these names and faces to memory? What are you supposed to do when you meet one of these guys on the street? Do you instruct your kids to stay away from these homes? Are we supposed to keep an eye on them in some way? Should we organize patrols to watch them? Should we be careful not to hire them? Should we make sure they remain outsiders for the rest of their days?
Don't get me wrong. I understand that sex crimes are uniquely terrible things. I'm aware that some categories of sex offenders are more likely to be repeat offenders than some other types of criminals. I absolutely do not diminish the nature of the crimes and the wrongs that these men (and they are largely men) have committed. I just don't feel any safer knowing where they live.
For its part, the Sheriff's Office is just trying to make this information more reliable and available. It's already out there. State law stipulates that sex offenders register and such databases exist elsewhere.
We should all be vigilant, particularly parents. We know not to let our children stray too far and we teach them to avoid strangers. I just don't see how a map like this serves justice in a civil society predicated on presumed innocence, where those found guilty of the most heinous crimes are allowed to serve their time and rebuild their lives.