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Sex-Offender Law A Feel-Good Proposal That Solves Nothing

March 24, 2010

courant.com (Hartford, CT): City Sex-Offender Law A Feel-Good Proposal That Solves Nothing.

What’s worse than bad legislation or no legislation at all?
Feel-good legislation that makes politicians look good, his or her constituents feel good and then sends everyone home to exactly the same problem.

Congratulations, Hartford state Rep. Kelvin Roldan. Roldan is proposing a bill that would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to live within 2,000 feet of a public or private school or day care facility in the city. Which translates into almost anywhere in the city.

Sounds good, right? Hartford has more registered sex offenders within its 18 square miles than any other Connecticut town or city — more than 500 as of 2009. It’d be nice for other towns to share the burden. But then that can be said for just about every problem that the city is saddled with.

And sure, it’d be great to exile sex offenders to a place where they can never harm a child. But that’s not going to happen. What likely will happen is exactly what critics who testified before the judiciary committee Monday said: They’ll go underground. And an unmonitored sex offender you can’t find is far more dangerous than a registered offender. At least you know where they live.

Besides, here’s another reality: Despite all the stranger-danger after-school specials people in Roldan and my generation grew up with, that’s a myth. Statistics show that many more children are molested, abducted or killed by people they know than by strangers.

In explaining his logic, Roldan said the law would help keep registered sex offenders out of situations that might cause them to commit another crime. “This is all about the safety of our children,” Roldan said.

No, it’s not. This bill doesn’t amount to much more than legislative low hanging fruit that makes for a nice sound bite. Sounds good, but totally unrealistic.

And right now, Hartford’s children are in more danger from what’s not going on inside city schools than from what may be lurking outside of them.

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