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Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Too Close for Comfort
A few days ago, I posted about the recent rash of violent crimes and incidents that have been getting disturbingly close to home lately.

Apparently, last Thursday morning at about 2:30 AM, in a crime that seems particularly vicious even by Baltimore standards, a 15 year old girl was chased by three men, hunted down, and raped on my block. I haven't been able to find anyone who saw or heard anything, but it does explain the three patrol cars parked at the end of my alley, two doors down, when I took out the trash last Thursday. I wondered at the time what had happened, and almost stopped to ask them, but I was already running late for a 7:00 AM surgical conference.

So here's a dilemma. Thanks to one of the scariest databases out there, anyone can pinpoint all the registered sex offenders that live in Maryland, or anywhere else in the country thanks to Megan's Law. In Baltimore, this is a particularly alarming number. Every bit as shocking as our murder rate (hmmm - a connection??).

Thanks to the information in this database, I discovered that some newer neighbors of mine have been renting out their basement apartment to someone who is a registered Child Sex Offender charged with the abuse of minors since January.

What can / do I do with this information? There's no way to really ask them - "Umm, excuse me, are you aware that your boarder is on this list?". For one, I'm pretty sure they know - and how awkward is that? And if they aren't - what then?

The information is published VERY publicly on the Internet. The 21st century version of the Scarlet Letter. Do we tell other neighbors discretely - especially the ones with children?

There are very strict guidelines preventing the use of this information to harass, intimidate or threaten the individuals on the list, and I certainly agree with those strictures. But if the purpose of the list is to inform and warn - do I as a neighbor have an obligation to do so as well?

UPDATE: As a commenter requests - the rape and the database listing are ENTIRELY unrelated. As a single, white female in an urban neighborhood, I was compelled to see if there were any trends after the rape. What I found - was unexpected. The renter in question is (presumably, since his landlords are gay), a fifty something, gay, white male.
posted by Broadsheet @ 5:12 PM  
12 Editorial Opinions:
  • At March 28, 2007, Anonymous Bonanza JellyBean said…

    Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty much a fair and open-minded person. Except, however, when it comes to sex offenders-ESPECIALLY ones who abuse children.

    Here is the thing, who cares about being PC in situations like this when you know that children and a child molester are on the same block. Maybe people in the neighborhood already know, but maybe they don't. I think the latter is worse. Tell your neighbors who are parents. If I were a parent, I would definitely want you to tell me. I can't believe that they wouldn't have already checked the list, but whatever. Tell them.

    If that makes you really uncomfortable, then go talk to the neighbors who are renting out the space to him. Ask them to be responsible and tell the other neighbors (if they do indeed know he is on the list). There is a reason this stuff is made public.

     
  • At March 28, 2007, Anonymous youngest sister said…

    You tell them, if you're up to it. The recidivism rate for child sex offenders is one of the lowest for any crime. Think about the possibility of an offender living anywhere near anyone you care about who has kids.

    I'm usually pretty way out liberal too, but I draw the line on this one.

    If you tell them and they already know/don't care, you discreetly tell any other parents in the area that you know personally.

     
  • At March 28, 2007, Anonymous Butch said…

    Take a look at your old hometown on www.city-data.com. We have 1 sex offender per every 323 citizens while Baltimore "only" as 1 per 396.

     
  • At March 28, 2007, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    Tricky issue, I think. I think a lot of it depends on what he did to get labeled a sex offender - it's one thing if he was touching little children, but what if, when he was 22 or something, he slept with a 17 year old? Sure, that's rape, she wasn't old enough to make an informed consent, but is it really on the level with subjecting a four year old to molestation? Probably not.

    (And I say this because the one time I looked at a database like this, I wondered "What's the difference between 3rd Degree Sex Offense and Sexual Abuse of a Minor?" Why are some people listed as "violent" and others not?)

    What really makes this kind of situation tricky is that there's this fine line to be walked in bringing someone back to society after serving their time, but being on guard against possible future returns-to-past-behavior. Where do you draw that line? How much gray do you want when you're making that decision?

    I think Bonanza's advice is probably the best (especially about being discreet), but you should try to find out what this person was convicted of.

    Also to keep in mind - does the database list the person as "compliant"? An idea might be to send a general e-mail to your neighbors about the incident and a link to the sex offenders database.

     
  • At March 28, 2007, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    OK - good - this is raising good discussion, which I very much appreciate.

    One of the very real reasons that Baltimore's rate for sexual offenders is so high, is that a lot of 20 something African American men are having sex with consenting under age girls (<18) - and they get nailed for statutory rape, regardless of circumstance. They go on this list and stay there forever.

    I'm not saying it's right or wrong - but it's sad that in that particular circumstance they get nailed with a Scarlet Letter on this database.

    On the other hand - My Mom sent me an email saying "why was a 15 yr. old girl out at 2:30 AM on a Thursday night?"

    My answer? No one deserves to be gang raped by 3 men. Period.

    The database doesn't give many details. Simply address, primary charge, and whether or not they are compliant with their parole officer.

    In the case of this particular sex offender, he's a pasty white fifty-plus something man renting an apartment in an openly gay household.

    I'm guessing that young / teenage men are at risk - not small children.

    Just another reason that I wonder how much I should "publicize" this.

     
  • At March 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The original poster wrote about the horrible rape scene and then talked about registered sex offenders and Megan's Law. Was there a connection? Were any or all of the three a registered sex offender? Or is the writer assuming that only registered sex offenders would commit such a crime? I am puzzled. The anecdote seems to draw a connection between the two events (the crime and looking up names on Megan's List), but he or she really doesn't really connect the dots. Poster, would you clarify?

     
  • At March 29, 2007, Blogger tfg said…

    I thought that the offenders were de-listed after a periond of time. Are they really on there forever?

     
  • At March 29, 2007, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    I think the dots are listed, Anon. Rape is a sexual offense. Broadsheet probably figured that since the attack occured near her home, the perpertrators might live in that same area, and chose to educate herself on who some of her less-savory neighbors are.

    As I understand it, it isn't just child molestors who are required to register as sex offenders - it's anyone who is convicted of a sex offense. I'm pretty sure that included gang rape.

     
  • At March 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "As a single, white female in an urban neighborhood..."

    Hey, me too (and what an awful thing to have happened on your block, and an icky thing to find in the registry -I'm proudly a good 50 yards from the nearest registered violent sex offender, yay), but what's the whiteness got to do with it? Surely we've moved past the notion of animalistic black men hunting down pure white women for their pervy mescegnation lust?

    shelley

     
  • At March 29, 2007, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    Shelley - I wasn't thinking that way at all, but I can see how it came across. I simply think of myself as a SWF - force of habit - nothing more was implied.

    tfg: According to the website:

    All registrants must register for 10 years, or for life if the registrant is:

    * Is a Sexually Violent Predator; or
    * Has been convicted of a sexually violent offense; or
    * Has been convicted of a violation of § 3-601 of the Criminal Law Article for commission of a sexual act involving penetration of a child under the age of 12 years; or
    * Has been convicted of a prior crime as a Child Sexual Offender, an Offender, or a Sexually Violent Offender.

    Child Sexual Offenders must register initially with both the appropriate supervising authority and the designated local law enforcement unit; thereafter, they must register annually in person with the designated local law enforcement unit. Offenders and Sexually Violent Offenders must register initially with the appropriate supervising authority and thereafter annually by mail with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Sexually Violent Predators must register initially with the appropriate supervising authority and thereafter every 90 days by mail with the designated local law enforcement unit.

    Non-resident registrants who are working or attending school in Maryland must register for the period of time specified for the category of registration, or until the registrant's employment or student enrollment in Maryland ends (if that occurs before termination of the registration period).

     
  • At March 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry to have fussed, it's just exactly what my crazy racist grandmother says to me all the time. She's 80, so I don't argue, which means you got her share.

    -shelley

     
  • At March 29, 2007, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    Butch - they don't call it Western Pennsyltucky for nothing. I wonder what the ratio of offender to relative is?

     
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