Thursday, September 5, 2002

Most sex offenders still not registered

Published in the Current

Of the 3,300 sex offenders required to register with the state’s sex offender registry, only a couple hundred showed up by the Sept. 1 deadline, according to the state police. Officials are taking a wait-and-see approach pending a decision on further action.

“We were hoping for a far greater response to voluntary compliance,” said Maine State Police spokesman, Steve McCausland.

He understands why there is a problem. “The sex offender list is the last place most people want their names to appear,” he said. Some of the offenses took place as long ago as 10 years, he said, so people may “take their chances” and effectively make the police go looking for them.

Starting June 30, 1992, people convicted of gross sexual assault of minors were required by state law to register with state and local police.

In 1999 the legislature expanded the law to include a number of other offenses, ranging from unlawful sexual contact to non-parental kidnapping.

From that date forward, all people convicted of those offenses also had to register.

In September 2001, the state Legislature made the 1999 law retroactive to the original 1992 date. All offenders convicted of any of the crimes added in 1999, and who were convicted between 1992 and 1999, were required to register by Sept. 1.

The plan of action now is uncertain.

“We will now regroup and decide what our next steps are going to be,” McCausland said.

The State Bureau of Identification, which oversees the sex offender registry, has other tasks as well, he said, so officials will have to look at what else is required of that division before deciding how to handle the sex offender issue.

In the meantime, state police will wait for sex offenders to have background checks run on them, or have other contacts with law enforcement.

When sex offenders who should have registered do encounter police, McCausland said, they may be subject to “enforcement action” based on their failure to register.

Criminal background checks, he said, are common in many fields as pre-employment checks, including most jobs dealing with children, including school employees, daycare providers and scout leaders.