(Host) Governor Jim Douglas has signed the Internet Sex Offenders Registry bill into law. Backers of the plan say it will help protect victims from sexual predators in the future.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Currently Vermont is one of a handful of states that does not post information about people convicted of serious sexual assault cases on the Internet. But this situation will change next winter when this new law is fully implemented.
Under the legislation, the name, address and specific convictions of offenders will be posted at a special Internet Web site. The law also makes it clear that local law enforcement agencies are empowered to release information about offenders if they feel there is a threat to public safety.
One of the people watching the governor sign the bill into law was Betsy Stratton. She’s the grandmother of Tara Stratton, a Barre teenager who was brutally murdered in January of last year. Stratton became an active proponent of this bill because the person accused of that crime was a convicted rapist.
Stratton says it’s important for members of the public to be aware when convicted sex offenders move into their neighborhoods.
(Stratton) “We came to as many committee meetings as we could. We just like to help our communities be more aware of when there’s potential harm or danger, and help parents try and keep their children safe, help women try and keep safe, and to young boys.”
(Kinzel) Stratton thinks the bill will be effective in deterring some serious crimes in the future because it creates uniform procedures for the police to notify members of the public about potential threats to their safety.
(Stratton) “It gives the police the permission with immunity so they feel more comfortable releasing information as needed to appropriate people. And some police departments have felt comfortable in doing that and erring on the side of community rights and public rights, versus the criminals’ rights.”
(Kinzel) The full implementation of the law has been delayed until March of 2005 to give officials an opportunity to draft rules and regulations that will govern the operations of the Internet Registry.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.