Senate gives unanimous support to sex offender registry

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(Host) The Senate his given its final approval to legislation that will place the names and pictures of convicted sex offenders on the Internet. The vote in the Senate was unanimous.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation addresses several issues. It calls for uniform reporting procedures when individuals contact their local law enforcement officials about suspected sex offenders and it calls for additional training for police officers in this area. The main provision of the bill creates an Internet registry for convicted sex offenders.

Currently under Vermont law, a person who suspects that another individual might be a sex offender must contact their local police department to verify this information. This legislation will put the names and pictures of convicted sex offenders on the Internet but not their addresses. That information would still need to be obtained from local police officials.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears says the bill is a step in the right direction;

(Sears) “I think the important thing is that if it helps to save one or two lives, it’s well worth it. And I don’t think it’s an infringement – there are 44 other states who’ve [used] the Internet in one form or another. I would suggest that we’re probably one of those that’s taking a baby step in terms of the use of the Internet rather than a giant step. But I think that’s good because we need to see what the impact will be.”

(Kinzel) But Sears says the bill is not the final answer to this issue:

(Sears) “But I think it’s important that people remember the registry only covers those who’ve been convicted. There are still sex offenders out there who’ve never been convicted or who’ve not complied with sex offender registries in their own states. For example, in California roughly 60 percent of the people are in compliance. That means that 40 percent of the sex offenders who should be on the registry in California they don’t know where they are. So when you have those kinds of numbers I think we still have to be very vigilant and that you can’t assume that just because they’re not on the sex offender registry they’re not sex offenders.”

(Kinzel) The measure will now be reviewed by the House.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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