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Has COVID-19 Affected the Sex Offender Registry?

One of the core topics we teach in our Active Shooter Preparedness training program is situational awareness. Situational awareness means being alert to people and activities around you. Whether you’re in your neighborhood or near your childcare program or school, it’s essential to remain vigilant. To help participants understand the importance of situational awareness, our instructors introduce and familiarize course participants with their State Sex Offender Registry and Megan’s Law.

sex offender, Megan's law, sex offender registry, national sex offender registry, covid-19, coronavirus, pandemic, children, safety, situational awareness

What Is Megan’s Law?

Megan’s Law was signed into law in May 1996 after the murder of a seven-year-old New Jersey girl named Megan Kanka. Megan was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a neighbor who moved across the street from her family. The family was unaware that the offender was a twice-convicted sex offender who had committed a similar crime only months before.

Megan’s Law mandated that each state have a public database that details offenders convicted of sex crimes against a minor victim to help protect children from further victimization. Every convicted offender must register with their local police department annually for as long as the court orders.

Offenders must provide a current photograph, current address, phone number, place of employment, email addresses, license plate numbers, and any distinguishing marks such as scars and tattoos. The offenders are also required to notify local law enforcement if they move to another address, community, or state. Failure to comply with any of these requirements can lead to felony arrest charges, steep fines, and the possibility of lengthy jail sentences.

How COVID-19 is Affecting the Sex Offender Registry

As with so many programs today, the Sex Offender Registration program has been affected by COVID-19. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many law enforcement jurisdictions have suspended in-person home monitoring from verifying current addresses, and some have stopped enforcement altogether.

Recently a Federal Judge in Michigan ordered law enforcement to stop enforcing the Sex Offender Registration mandates during the pandemic. This lag in enforcement has led to many offenders entirely disregarding the laws, with many absconders moving between states without registering as required.

Police resources have been stretched thin with the coronavirus pandemic, shrinking budgets, and other social factors. Now, many rely on locating and identifying the violators through routine traffic stops and domestic calls. This approach creates a problem and makes individuals wonder what they can do to keep informed about possible sex offenders in their neighborhoods.

A possible solution is to know that in addition to your State’s Sex Offender Registry, there is also a National Sex Offender Registry maintained by the Dept of Justice. The National Registry has a database with information from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, US Territories, and dozens of Indian Tribal Nations.

How can this help?

By merely knowing and entering a suspected individual’s name in the National Registry, you can determine if that person has registered just about anywhere in the nation. The National Registry will have a photo on their site or direct you to the registered state for more details on the suspected person. Knowing this information will help you identify a possible offender who may have disregarded the laws and not registered upon moving from state to state.

What lessons have we learned?

  • Don’t let our focus on COVID-19 give us a reason to drop our guard on safety.

  • Crime doesn’t stop due to a global pandemic.

  • Be vigilant and be aware.

  • Don’t be scared, be prepared!

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness teaches these life-saving techniques and more during our Active Shooter Preparedness for Early Childhood onsite training course. You can also register for our brand new hybrid training program today: online training followed by on-site practical training, designed with your safety in mind. Schedule hybrid training today.

Take our online Situational Awareness training course today.

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