In the wake of tragedy, people are often inspired to bring about a common good, often under the theory that a loss shouldn’t happen again.
That’s certainly the case with Megan’s Law.
Megan’s Law is the phrase used to describe laws in the U.S. that require law enforcement agencies to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders.
The name stems from the case of Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old who was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1994 in New Jersey by a sex offender who lived across the street from her.
In Arizona, Megan’s Law was adopted in 1996.
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the state had laws regarding sex offender registration as early as 1939.
With Megan’s Law, law enforcement agencies notify the community when a sex offender is released into the community from jail or prison. The offender’s information, including a sex offender risk assessment, is entered into a database that is accessible by the public.
The assessment is designed to help authorities determine whether or not the offender could be at risk of committing another offense. The scale is based on 19 criteria, and offenders are ranked on a risk level of 1, 2 or 3, with 1 being a low risk.
For any offender who is labeled a Level 2 (intermediate risk) or Level 3 (high risk), state law requires community notification, according to the Arizona DPS. Members of the neighborhood are notified of the offender’s status, criminal background and address, and a photo is provided of the offender.
The state also provides a website, http://tinyurl.com/AZoffenders, which allows visitors to enter an address to find any offenders within a three-square-mile radius. The site includes a photo of the offender as well as the offender’s history.
The Yuma County Sheriff’s Office also offers a free service that will send updates via email whenever a sex offender moves into a specified location. To sign up or learn more, visit http://tinyurl.com/YumaOffenders. YCSO also offers safety tips for residents, including pointers on how to explain the situation to children and warning signs to watch out for.
DPS says the goal is to make sure residents are empowered with knowledge to keep themselves – and their families – safe.
YCSO and the state have gone to great lengths to make sure that information is available to residents in a variety of formats, from fliers to emails to online, searchable databases. It’s a valuable resource for the community.
We encourage residents to check out these websites to learn more about their neighborhoods.