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Sexual Assault & Megan's Law

Since the 1940’s individuals convicted of certain sex offenses have been required to register their residence address with local law enforcement. (California Penal Code Section 290) Through the years, there have been many changes in the registration laws and in 1996, President Clinton signed the federal “Megan’s Law” which truly changed sex offender registration to make registration an effective tool for tracking sex offenders and protecting the public.

Megan’s Law began in 1994 with the abduction, rape and murder of little seven-year-old Megan Kanka by her neighbor, a twice-convicted child molester. No one in Megan’s neighborhood knew that there was a predator living among them. This terrible tragedy sparked a grass-roots movement to revise registration requirements and to give law enforcement the authority to notify potential victims of dangerous individuals.

Today, many of California's 86,000 registered sex offenders can be viewed by anyone with access to the Internet at the Megan's Law website. In Merced County alone, there are over 700 registered sex offenders- over 350 of them living within the city limits of Merced.

Sex offenders are required to notify law enforcement of any changes in their residence within 5 working days of the change as well as a yearly update- even if there are no changes. At the Merced Police Department, registrations are conducted twice weekly during which offenders are interviewed, photographed, and fingerprinted. Additionally, DNA samples are collected at that time from all offenders who have not previously supplied a sample. The offender's current information is maintained in a computerized data base which is available to patrol officers and investigators 24-7.

You can reduce your risk of becoming a victim by taking simple precautions:

  • Practice good security- at home, at the office, and in your vehicle.
  • Be alert to locations and situations that make you and your family vulnerable to crime, and be aware of people around you and your family.
  • Educate yourself on crime prevention tactics. For assistance contact your local law enforcement agency or the Crime and Violence Prevention Center of the California Attorney General's Office.

Teach your children to avoid situations that put them in danger of abuse, molestation or abduction. Help protect your child by establishing a home environment where your child feels safe to tell you anything, without fear of shame, ridicule or punishment.

A safe and supportive home environment, combined with clear instructions about what behavior is acceptable and what is not, will guide your child's actions and encourage your child to tell you if something improper happens.

Many parents warn their children not to talk to strangers. However, often the abuser or abductor is not a stranger but someone the child knows. He or she can be a school bus driver, teacher, relative, neighbor, or friend.

Here are some specific rules you can teach your child:

  • Stay away from people who call you near their car, even if they offer to take you somewhere exciting.
  • If someone tries to take you away, yell, scream, kick, and say, “Call 911! Call 911! This is not my father (or mother).”
  • If you get lost in a store, go to the checkout counter and tell the worker there. Don't wander around on your own.
  • You don't have to keep secrets from your parents. No one can hurt your parents or pets if you tell what happened.
  • No one should touch you in the parts covered by your bathing suit, and you should not be asked to touch anyone there.
  • Don't let anyone take your picture without permission from your parents or teacher.

Remember that the purpose of the disclosure of information from Megan’s Law is to allow members of the public to protect themselves and their families from sex offenders. It is not intended to promote vigilante acts. Criminal misuse of the information subjects the person(s) who misuses it to a sentence enhancement in addition to the punishment mandated for the crime.

Arm yourself with information. Use the Megan’s Law website cited above. If you have information concerning any of the sex offenders listed there, you can provide that information by clicking on the bar beneath the person's photograph entitled “Report Information to DOJ”. For additional information, view the California Attorney General's Home Page.

             
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