06/21/06 — Rules are a must: New sex offender regulations a start in protecting children

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Rules are a must: New sex offender regulations a start in protecting children

Every time anyone talks about changes in the laws governing sex offenders, someone brings up the word “rights.”

And truth be told, there is some reason to be cautious as we consider the rules we make. They should be fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the community and the children who live there. And, in some cases, there might even be a reason to consider the needs of the offender as well. Sometimes courts do make mistakes.

But then again, therein lies the problem. We think too much these days about the exceptions rather than the rule. And, in this case, our children are in danger because of that hesitation to make stricter rules and to enforce them.

There are a myriad of ways sex offenders are attacking today’s children. Watch television and you will be flabbergasted at the number of adult men who are arranging to meet teenage boys and girls online. Some of their stories — and the number of years they have been communicating with children under the age of 16 — would shock any parent who is raising a youngster of that age.

And then there are the crime stories. Many of the most recent, and the most heinous, crimes against children have been perpetrated by past sex offenders — out on bond or released after completing their sentences — who have gone right back to doing what they were doing before they were sent to jail in the first place.

That is just scary.

So, in many states across the country, governments are trying to come up with ways to better-protect children — and to send the message that a sex offense against a child is serious business that will affect the perpretrator’s life forever.

North Carolina is one of those states. The jury is still out on whether the discussion about a change that will make it a felony for a sex offender to live near a school, day care center or a pool will be effective in protecting children, but the effort to think more about prevention and eliminating as many dangerous circumstances as possible is a good one.

Times are changing and there are more ways than ever for children and potential sex offenders to connect. So, attacking the causes as well as aggressively prosecuting the offenses themselves, are critical steps in reducing the possibility that there will be another family mourning an unnecessary loss.

At least, it is a step in the right direction.

Published in Editorials on June 21, 2006 11:03 AM