Current law needs changes

Published 3:57 pm Saturday, January 31, 2009

Attorney General Troy King is looking to toughen laws on registered sex offenders because he doesn’t believe the state does enough to protect citizens from he offenders. Currently, there are 10,605 registered sex offenders living in Alabama.

King wants to propose legislation when the state legislature meets Tuesday that will add requirements for sex offenders once they leave prison, including requiring them to disclose information about their cars and the names they use to meet people in computer chat rooms and on Internet social sites.

King told the Associated Press the computer has become the tool of choice for enticing victims, and having the computer names will make it easier to catch sex offenders if they try to lure new victims via the computer.

This measure may not be the best way to catch them because they could just create new screen names, but at least they can track what will happen on the usernames given to authorities.

Alabama law already requires sex offenders to notify authorities of where they plan to live when they get out of prison. However, King’s bill adds teeth to that law by making it a crime, punishable by one to 10 years in prison, for someone to assist a sex offender in hiding his real residence.

King says some sex offenders will report that they are living with a relative but will be actually stay with a girlfriend or some other close friend. Thus, law enforcement cannot alert the proper people to let them know a sex offender lives nearby.

This sounds like a great idea. Our current laws do make it easier for sex offenders to get by with not having to alert the authorities many times. People have wondered why they weren’t notified that a sex offender lived nearby. The reason why that has happened is likely because that offender told the police they lived somewhere other than where they really did live.

The legislation would also not allow sex offenders to live close to YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs in addition to schools, which are already forbidden by law.

Other measures in this bill could make it a worthwhile piece of legislation. We hope that it could pass this session.