April 27, 2014

Sex offender law puts kids in jeopardy

4-27-2014 Iowa:

We know where the sex offenders are: Everywhere.

Nineteen years of Iowa sex offender registry tracking shows that Iowans never are far from the state's 5,725 registered offenders, including 296 in Scott County. The Rock Island County registry shows 268.

Allegations of a child-pornography ring in a west Davenport mobile home park saddens and sickens Quad-Citians already disgusted by almost-daily reports of sex crimes against children.

Nine children identified by police as sex-abuse victims at the Patriot Mobile Home Park, 4847 W. Kimberly Road, were surrounded by offenders. At least eight of them lived in the small loop of mobile homes on Davenport’s far west side.

Authorities charged two of the registered sex offenders with some of the attacks. A third was arrested for failing to report to the registry. Five women face charges for leaving their kids in the care of the two charged suspects.

All the registries in the world can’t help when parents ignore them. Fortunately, many parents heed the alerts, checking iowasexoffender.com or Illinois’ isp.state.il.us/sor online database that discloses offenders by address, name, city or county. Our community’s endless accounts of sexual predators make this database essential for parents and employers.

What remains unessential are the laws that keep sex offenders from living near schools and parks.

Most offenders know their victims

Almost every story we publish about sex offenders involves predators who cull victims from acquaintances and relatives. Virtually no cases, including those under investigation at Patriot Mobile Home Park, involve children attacked by strangers.

Iowa’s residency laws force offenders into remote, low-rent areas to comply with the law that keeps offenders 2,000 feet away from schools or daycare centers. Illinois residential restriction is 500 feet.

These laws effectively cluster sex offenders, creating ideal opportunities to find victims from the poorest families. To be clear, police allege some of the Patriot Mobile Home Park parents were complicit, or criminally negligent to leave their kids with sex offenders.

Iowa’s law created an opportunity for those parental lapses to have devastating consequences.

The fact is, sex offenders don’t lurk near schools or parks to identify victims. They cultivate them. Bunching offenders in this isolated trailer court didn’t protect children. It helps offenders find them and exposes children to multiple offenders.

While we’ve neither heard nor read of registered sex offenders brazenly finding victims in schools, we’ve seen plenty of stories about teachers and staff implicated for sexually assaulting students.

School threats come from the inside

A 33-year-old Ankeny teacher was jailed in Polk County earlier this month for sexually abusing a 17-year-old student. In Davenport, a Hayes Elementary after-school program coordinator is charged with secretly videotaping students in the bathroom. A United Township High School teacher is serving prison time for sex abuse of a student. In 2011, a teacher’s aide at Jefferson-Edison Elementary School was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old in his home. While he remains on the sex offender list, he served little prison time. A local judge suspended his 10-year term after just four months. On Thursday, a Scott County District Court judge sentenced former North Scott High School coach Daniel Schneiderman to a 10-year prison term. He was convicted of sending hundreds of sexually explicit text messages to two students, then threatening to kill one if she talked.

A 2007 Associated Press investigation disclosed 2,750 educators nationally who lost teaching credentials because of sexual misconduct from 2001 to 2005.

Of course, the vast majority of educators are responsible, ethical professionals looking out for students. Our point is the state offender residency aren’t protecting kids in schools. Instead, they’re creating dangerous clusters where offenders prey on poor kids from fractured families.

Study the map above and you’ll find the clusters in our community. The New York Times reported in 2006 about the Ced-Rel Motel in Cedar Rapids, that was home to 26 registered sex offenders.

Rehabilitation for sex offenders requires creating connections to work, church and community, not to a den of other sex offenders. But this is about public safety, not offender rehab.

Safety for requires stiff prison terms that judges do not suspend after the fact. Safety requires easily accessible databases to locate offenders wherever they live.

Safety is hampered by a law that creates clusters in low-rent motels, trailer parks and neighborhoods around poor families with children ripe for the picking. ..Source.. by Quad-City Times editorials reflect the opinion of the editorial board.

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