Police urge parents to stay vigilant to keep children safe
Next safety meeting to be held April 15
Don’t let your guard down when it comes to child safety.
That was the message voiced loud and clear by Detective Jim Jones of the U.S. Department of Justice SAFE (Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement) task force at a community meeting held at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center on April 1. The event was held by the San Diego Police Department Northwestern Division and the Sex Offender Enforcement and Registration Unit of the San Diego Police Department so residents could learn about the current laws and community issues surrounding the topic of registered sex offenders.
“We have had some horrendous, horrible tragedies in our community,” Jones said. “Don’t lose this (awareness) six months from now when the tragedies are further away.”
A second community meeting will be held at 6 p.m. April 15 at Ocean Air Recreation Center.
Jones said the most victimized segment of society is children; 2,185 children are reported missing in the country every day. Sixty-six percent of those children are females between the ages of 10 and 14.
Thanks to Megan’s Law, information regarding sex offenders in communities is available to the public.
“Unfortunately, we have a lot of children we name laws after,” said Jones, standing in front of images of children who were victims of violent sexual predators. “It’s important to remember them.”
One of the photos behind him was 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in New Jersey in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street.
Her parents believe that every parent has the right to know if a sex offender is living in their neighborhood.
There are more than 1,800 sex offenders living in the city of San Diego. Of those registered, 22 are considered “high-risk” and are checked on routinely by police officers. Only one in San Diego is considered a violent offender and they keep “very close tabs” on that gentleman, according to Jones. He lives downtown.
Only three registered sex offenders live in Carmel Valley and none of them are considered “high risk.” One parent in attendance was particularly concerned about a sex offender that lives very close to Ocean Air School.
“He’s getting regular contact,” said Lt. Anastasia Smith of the Northwestern Division. “He knows our officers by name because we’ve been there so many times.”
Registration every year is a lifetime requirement for sex offenders in California; some states have a 10-year cap. Once an offender moves into the state, they are held to California’s law.
The registration system relies on the offender following the rules, registering every year within five days of their birthday or when they move. For sexually violent offenders, they must register every 90 days.
“Registration is what we use to monitor and track these guys, but it’s not the answer to everything,” Jones said.
Registered sex offenders who are not on parole or probation are allowed by law to live by or go to locations such as parks and schools. Legislation, such as Jessica’s Law, is seeking to change those rules.
Jessica’s Law was named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was raped and murdered in 2005 by a longtime criminal. The law proposes lifetime GPS monitoring for sex offenders; makes it unlawful for offenders to reside within 2,000 feet of a school or park; makes offenders register twice a year; and demands that their sentences are 85 percent served.
In 2008, the city of San Diego proposed to take Jessica’s Law a step further with the Child Protection Ordinance. The act reads that offenders be restricted from being within 300 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, day cares, libraries or amusement centers. The ordinance would require that offenders not reside 2,000 feet from any of these locations as well.
Both have yet to be approved because constitutionality and the sex offenders’ rights are at issue.
Jones encouraged parents to visit the Megan’s Law Web site, meganslaw.ca.gov, and check out their neighborhood as well as places where their children may participate in sports or other activities.
He said it’s important to talk to your children, to help them be prepared for “what if” situations. “You don’t want to scare them, but you want them to be a little bit frightened,” Smith said.
“Stranger danger” sometimes doesn’t go far enough because many attacks are made by someone the child knows, such as a family member, teacher or coach.
Detective Jim Jones can be reached at jwjones@ pd.sandiego.gov or (858) 268-5409. To contact the San Diego Police Department Sex Offenders Unit headquarters, call (619) 531-1543.
Smith said that a child needs to know that the line of communication is open so they feel comfortable telling a parent if something seems weird or inappropriate.
Technology has also made it easier for predators to target children so Smith said that parents need to be aware of whom their children are communicating with online and the kind of information they are sharing.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers resources and tips at missingkids.com.
Detective Jim Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 858-268-5409. To contact the San Diego Police Department Sex Offenders Unit headquarters call 619-531-1543.
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