Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dilution of a Sex Offender - The dilution of a sex offender: Making the term apply to non-sex-offenders a scary proposition.

The term "sex offender" has the tendency to strike fear in parents' hearts, cause countless Web sites to track registries (complete with searchable maps), and inspire the citizenry to distribute fliers and call public meetings. And we're not making light of any of it.

That's why diluting the term by adding a whole host of criminals to the database is a scary proposition indeed.
And that includes naked priests.

This week, a court declined to downgrade the conviction of Rev. Robert Whipkey, 53, to a petty offense of public indecency. Whipkey, a Catholic priest was charged with indecent exposure after being caught running naked around the Frederick High School track last June. Whipkey will be sentenced in October. He faces possible jail time and registering as a sex offender.

There are problems with sex offender registries going on in Colorado and nationwide right now.

When our courts add, say, a 18-year-old student who has consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend in Georgia, or a man running naked around a Weld County school track at 4:30 a.m., they risk making the term obsolete, or at least weaker than it should be.

When you hear the term "sex offender" do you immediately think there's a risk to area children -- or does your mind start to wander toward how the term applies to a broad base of crimes, including streaking and urinating in public?

That's not to say these things are not crimes, because they are. Running around in the buff is illegal, and so is statutory rape, even when it's consensual. Lumping all of these crimes into the sex offender registry is, however, offensive.

All of it is available online, as well, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling. And some web sites have searchable maps. Sometimes they are rich with detail, including profile pictures. But they are often short on facts: Such as with what, exactly, the person was charged.

Information is a good thing, but it's incomplete. Individuals can obsess about which registered offenders may be close to their neighborhoods and parks, but our children would be safer if parents and guardians focused even closer to home. In the vast majority of abuse cases, the abuser is a close friend or family member. Looking for signs of abuse and talking about it with our kids is a better strategy than clicking on any map.

Incidentally, this is also what is happening in many states which are beginning to post online registries which list offenders of non-sex-related crimes, such as animal abuse, drug crimes and murder. All of this results from the ridiculous new Adam Walsh Act laws being enacted all over the country in response to political correctness.