Monday, August 26, 2013

Colonial Heights, Virginia Mother Doesn’t Want Son to Walk to School Past Two Registered Sex Offenders Homes

It’s back-to-school time in the Commonwealth and what does that mean?

What else? Virginia television news stations running stories about Registered Sex Offenders living near school bus stops and RSO’s being on or near the route of students walking to and from school. 

Last week it was WAVY 10 about a Va Beach mothers complaints, today it’s NBC12 Richmond about a Colonial Height’s mother complaints. 

Like most Virginians, the NBC12 mother thinks the Registered Sex Offenders with their residences and employers information all being public are a significant risk to public safety. That is a misnomer. It’s the unknown “sex offenders” who aren’t registered that pose a much, much higher threat to children.

This story as all other similar stores leads viewers to believe that the Registered Sex Offenders who have their residences and employers information available to the public are a significant risk to public safety. This is a misnomer.

It’s the unknown “sex offenders” who aren’t registered that pose an actual threat to children.

The recidivism rate for Registered Sex Offenders is the second LOWEST of ALL crime.

1.       Vehicle Thefts, 78.8%*
2.       Selling stolen property, 77.4%*
3.       Burglary, 74%*
4.       Larceny, 74.6%*
5.       Possessing/Selling stolen weapons, 70.2%*
6.       Robbery, 70.2%*
7.       Domestic Battery, 41%**
8.       Drugs, 27%*
9.       Rape/Sexual Assault 2.5%*
10.     Murder 1.2%

        - 2002 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics
**     - 2000 Edward Gondolf, Reassault at 30-Months after Batterer Program Intake, 44 Int'l J. of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

Statistically speaking when a new sex crime occurs in the Commonwealth more than 98% will be by someone never convicted of a sex crime before (not by someone on the registry) and 95% will be by an acquaintance like a teacher, a coach or a family member, not a stranger.  

During the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session I publicly opposed Delegate Bob Marshall’s bill HB1369 which was drafted after another angry mother in Fairfax County (not his district) went to a news channel to complain about her child’s bus stop in relation to an RSO in late 2012 and before that there was a similar bill proposed in 2008.

In 2011 an extremely broad bill HB1523 was proposed that would have prohibited an RSO from walking their own children to and from a bus stop, from waiting in inclement weather with their child in their vehicle within 500 ft. of the bus stop or from even driving within 500 ft. a bus stop (leaving your street for work, stopping for the flashing lights, etc). I also publicly opposed this bill pointing out the state can’t make traveling on a public street a felony offense.

And one of the most popular kind of bus stop bills (and unconstitutional), restricting the residences of RSO’s in relation to the stops, in 2010 HB1004 and in 2011 HB1823  BOTH never even made it to committee after I lobbied against them, with facts not fear. The legal counsel to the VSCC and Senate Courts of Justice Committee have both publicly stated that such laws have been ruled unconstitutional across the country and if Virginia attempts to increase the distance or add additional locations to the current prohibition that that action could result in a legal challenge that takes down the entire statute.

That’s 4 bills that were stopped because someone was willing to stand up and point out the collateral consequences, high financial costs and unconstitutionality of them.

 “Feel Good” laws like these 4 bills add no additional protection and further prejudice aspects of our citizens’, they might be nice resume material for an upcoming campaign but they have no place in a civil society.

Fact: There has not been one case of a registered offender approaching or luring any children from a bus stop in Virginia.

Hysterical assumptions are what led angry parents to wrongfully identify and accuse a Bedford County, VA registered sex offender. Last October (2012) a man had been approaching children at a bus stop, attempting to lure them to his home. The Bedford police and the parents concluded that it must be a Registered Sex Offender so they went to the registry and picked a photo that came close. The man they selected had an alibi but he was still held without bond and charged with a felony for trespassing on school property, even though a bus stop is not school property. Days later the real perpetrator re-approached the bus stop and with the Registered Offender sitting in a jail cell, the authorities had NO choice but to conclude they had the wrong man.

This is where faulty rationale (assumptions) about those listed on the Virginia Registry has led us. The State ONLY had a misidentified man with a prior sex offense and THAT was enough to deny him bond, to charge him with a crime that doesn’t apply to other citizens and to presume he was guilty. Imagine if the real perpetrator had gone into hiding, The innocent man would have been convicted of a new felony and imprisoned for many years all because of the assumption that he must be the one because he’s on the registry. 

We all know “sex offenders” make for good television and sometimes the media even makes compliant RSO’s and their family members into targets with such programming. With more than 16,000 RSO’s in the Commonwealth and an additional 1,100 to 1,500 being added every year the go-to story of an RSO living near a school or a school bus stop will soon come to an end. Because there will be so many RSO’s due to the overly broad laws passed over the last 15 years labeling everyone “sex offender” that there won’t be any neighborhoods without at least one RSO.

Stay strong readers, Halloween is just 2 months away and then that will be the new focus of Virginia television stations trick-or-treaters and the Registered Sex Offender down the street. Can they or can’t they give out candy and do you know who they are? Wooooooooooooooooo, scary! 

Oh, wait there hasn’t been one case of a Registered Sex Offender in Virginia attempting to lure, abduct or molest anyone on Halloween, ever. But the holiday myth and the hype make for such good television you can count on it. Like the groundhog seeing his shadow to predict the length of winter. We all know its complete whoeeeeee but we repeat the effort each and every year. It means absolutely nothing, but its tradition. So…. stay tuned in October for the Halloween urban legend that legitimate media outlets perpetuate year in and year out even though it is complete whoeeeeee . 

Mary Devoy