State puts heat on sex offenders
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
Ten sex offenders have been indicted by an O'ahu grand jury on third-degree felonies for failing to register their addresses and other personal information with the state, State Attorney General Mark Bennett said yesterday.
One of the sex offenders is in custody for the attempted murder of his pregnant girlfriend, but the other nine are at large and Bennett asked for the public's help to find them.
The state indicted nine sex offenders last December for failing to register and offered amnesty for others who voluntarily came forward. Only 18 sex offenders took advantage of the amnesty so Bennett began to target more for prosecution. The state has identified 624 sex offenders who have either failed to register or have not updated their contact information.
"Today, we continue our message to convicted sex offenders: comply with sex offender registration laws or go to jail," Bennett said at a news conference yesterday afternoon.
Bennett said he targeted the 10 sex offenders because they had been convicted of serious sex crimes and had disregarded the registration requirement. He said other sex offenders who update their registration now will likely not face prosecution, even though the amnesty program is over, but vowed that the state would continue to track down those who ignore the law.
Sex offenders have had to register with the state since 1997 under a law intended to help police in sex-crime investigations. The state Legislature and Gov. Linda Lingle agreed last year to make the photos and registration information on many sex offenders more easily accessible to the public through a state Web site and at police stations and the Hawai'i Criminal Justice Data Center.
The Web site has information on about 1,500 sex offenders. Information on about 330 less-serious sex offenders is available only at police stations and the data center.
The state chose to make the information more accessible under the theory that people would be safer if they know where sex offenders live and work. The Web site has had more than 6.2 million hits since May 2005, according to the attorney general's office. Before the law was changed, sex offenders were allowed a court hearing before their information was released on the Internet.
Bennett said he has heard, anecdotally, from people who are pleased the information is publicly available. Many criminal justice experts believe registration requirements are a deterrent for sex offenders and useful for police, but there is less consensus about whether public access to the information reduces new sex crimes.
The 10 indictments announced yesterday were made by the grand jury over the past three days. The sex offenders named face up to five years in prison. Bail was set at $25,000.
Reach Derrick DePledge at email@example.com.