Sex Offender Map Plan Under Fire

April 7, 1999 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES, CA — A plan to distribute maps that vaguely show where sex offenders live near elementary schools has triggered criticism from civil liberties activists who fear ex-cons could become targets of vigilantism and harassment, the Associated Press reported today.

Police in South Gate, a city of 87,000 southeast of Los Angeles, want to pass out the maps to children in 13 elementary schools, said the AP. The maps are tailored for each school, with black dots showing the general location of the offenders’ homes.

But civil liberties advocates said that residents could use the information to harass or attack the sex offenders. They also said the maps are based on a state computer database of sex offenders riddled with inaccuracies.

“There’s no guarantee that this map will be accurate the day after it’s published, but you forever branded the home where that person previously lived,” Elizabeth Schroeder, Associate Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, told AP.

Under its version of New Jersey’s “Megan’s Law,” Californians can learn from police the names and descriptions of nearly 64,000 convicted sex offenders living in their communities. The law is named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl raped and strangled in 1994 by a twice-convicted sex offender.

The ACLU is against notification laws because they will not prevent sex offenders from committing crimes and because they victimize rehabilitated ex-offenders and their families. According to statistical reports, the majority of sex offenses are commited by a family member in the child’s home.

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