20 Sep 2007
Sex Offenders, Pedophiles & Predators
When Research Etc., Inc. began back in 1995, we had no intention of investigating convicted sex offenders, much less, pedophiles. We were simply in the business of adoption searches and skip tracing. However, as our business has grown and evolved to include pre-employment and personal background screenings, we found ourselves coming across these individuals more and more often. We wondered, incredulously, how some of these convicted sex offenders were running around loose and undocumented in our communities, and so we started to gather facts about the registry system, the court system and the tactics used by of some of these criminals.
I was recently watching a recent news story of a convicted sex offender who was paroled from prison, only to rape and molest again, this time killing the victim. I marveled as the TV “experts” hashed and rehashed the question as to why this person was loose on the streets. I realized that none of the commentators had any real answers – they were blaming the inept judge, or the parole board, or the law enforcement agencies that let him slip through the cracks. True, these are valid issues, but there is so much more that people should know, we are simply uninformed about how the system works. Chances are, unless you have been directly affected by a sex offender, or have become an advocate against these predators, you may not know certain things about them – things that can help you protect yourself and your loved ones. Frustrated, and armed with a forum to do so, I decided that I should share what we at Research Etc. have learned.
Sex Offenders and Registries
The Lychner Act of 1996 required the U.S. Attorney General to establish a national database to track the whereabouts and movements of certain convicted sex offenders, and to impose heavy sanctions for those sex offenders who fail to register. This site is available to the public - Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Registry Website. Also, many states have initiated their own sites which offer public record information on sex offenders - State Sex Offender Registry Websites.
What exactly is a “Sex Offender?” One definition is: “all persons convicted of crimes involving sex, including rape, molestation, sexual harassment, pornography production or distribution.” You might feel safe in knowing that you can go to the National or a State Sex Offender Registry website and plug in a name or address and find out whether there are any sex offenders in your neighborhood. You might feel safe, but you wouldn’t be safe. The Sex Offender Registries list only Level 2 and Level 3 Sex Offenders. What about Level 1 sex offenders? Who are they? In order to know what the different levels of sex offenders are, you must have those definitions, too - courtesy of the Columbia County Washington Sheriff’s Office website:
Level 1 Sex Offender
These offenders present the lowest possible risk to the community and their likelihood of re-offending is considered minimal. They normally have not exhibited predatory type characteristics and most have successfully participated or are participating in approved treatment programs. Many are first time offenders.
Level 2 Sex Offender
These offenders present a moderate risk to the community and they have a higher likelihood of re-offending than the Level 1 Offenders. They are considered a higher risk to re-offend, because of the nature of their previous crimes(s) and lifestyle (drug and alcohol abuse and other criminal activity). Some have refused to participate or failed to complete approved treatment programs.
Level 3 Sex Offender
These offenders pose a potential high risk to the community and are a threat to re-offend if provided the opportunity. Most have prior sex crime convictions as well as other criminal convictions. Their lifestyles and choices place them in this classification. Some have predatory characteristics and may seek out victims. They may have refused or failed to complete approved treatment programs.
Knowing these definitions might make you think that you are at least finding out about the worst offenders - but again - not really. I am not knocking the Sex Offender Registries – it’s the best defense we have going – but it’s not fail-proof. Most of the Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders that we have investigated are indeed registered. But many of them aren’t really where they say they are. Despite the fact there are heavy sanctions for a sex offender not registering their current address - maybe they are living or just visiting with relatives or friends and don’t register. But the really cunning sex offenders somehow will find a loophole. They rent apartments in their names and use the apartment as their legal address – all the while, they are living a nice, quiet life with the wife and kids in an upscale neighborhood across the street from an elementary school – the house is in the spouse’s name.
It is amazing how many sex offenders are applying for jobs that would enable them access to your home and children We’ve conducted background checks on delivery people, alarm installers, carpet cleaners, caregivers and even school personnel – and found registered sex offenders applying for these jobs, just betting that a background search won’t be conducted, that the employer will only call the references that they have included on their applications.
What about the Level 1 sex offender - the one that presents the lowest possible risk to the community and is not required to be registered? You can call your local police department and ask for the Sex Offender Unit and ask if a Level 1 Sex Offender is living in your neighborhood. Or, if you suspect someone out of your area, call their local police department and inquire if that person is a registered sex offender.
One more important fact about Level 1 sex offenders - just because someone is classified as Level 1 doesn’t necessarily mean that their offense was minor. We investigated a “Level 1” offender that took a plea agreement. This weirdo was caught in a parking lot luring two little girls over to his car by jingling a sack of change at them. Once they came closer, he exposed himself – but thankfully, the children ran and didn’t get close enough for him to grab them. He was arrested on the spot, but the distraught parents of the girls did not wish to put their daughters through any more trauma by having them involved in the court proceedings. The offender's attorney and the prosecutor worked out a deal where he’d confess his wrongdoing for a lesser sentence, ie; Level 1 Sex Offender. Upon investigating his very thick case file, we discovered that several years earlier, he was accused of repeatedly molesting his young step daughter, but his wife would never testify against him - she felt sorry for him because “he just needed help”. Of course, once divorced, the ex-wife sang like a bird - and he was convicted, but that time too a plea bargain was made for a lesser charge. It’s that easy and it’s not one bit uncommon. It happens every day in courtrooms all over the country.
The pedophile is usually classified as a Level 2 or Level 3 sex offender, but as the case above points out, not always. That pedophile is now living in our community, has a well-paying job, and is free to go about his day with no monitoring. Unless, someone cared enough to have him checked out, as one of our clients did. I’d love to expose him – paste his face on every front door, warning every parent within a hundred miles that he’s a danger to their children, but that would be harassment and exposure and in this day and age, we law abiding citizens must not and legally cannot infringe upon the rights afforded to sex offenders and pedophiles.
A pedophile is, by definition: An adult who is sexually attracted to a child or children. We hear about them every day on the news - they hurt, kidnap and sometimes murder innocent children. I don’t know of any parent who didn’t ache for the parents of Danielle Van Dam, Polly Klass, Jessica Lunsford or Samantha Runyan – whose lives were taken and whose families’ lives were destroyed by pedophiles. One pedophile’s life is certainly not worth that of a child, yet our system repeatedly sets them out into our communities after they have been deemed “rehabilitated.” If they are given life in prison without possiblity of parole, or put to death, at least that particular pedophile won’t offend again, but there’s another one right around the corner waiting to fill his shoes. Just turn on the TV, or go on the Internet - pedophiles have the same freedom of speech afforded to all U.S. citizens – they set up websites and chat online with kids, and lure them into meeting them.
Some pedophiles don’t register at all. Not because they refuse to, but because either they haven’t been caught yet or their offenses occurred before it became law that they were forced to register as a lifetime sex offender. We regularly run background checks on potential nannys applying for work in the home caring for small children. One particular nanny’s name came through our office, and it should have been a routine check – after all, she had worked for a local family for years and came highly recommended. One small, seemingly insignificant fact, was that after she left the employ of the recommending family because their children had grown up, she fell in love and married a man from her church. She was now being considered for employment by our client. The nanny was reportedly a lovely woman who had come to the interview with her new husband in tow. He wanted to make sure that if he got off work early during the week, he would be able to come to help his wife with the children, and if overnight stays were required of his wife, he would want to stay too. Our client decided to have us conduct a background check on both of them. He seemed to be a nice man, but we discovered he had spent 15 years in prison in another state for the rape of two children under the age of 10. His new wife probably had no idea - after all, he had committed these crimes before Sex Offender Registries were even considered. I wish she had called us to check him out while she was dating him, but she never would have thought of that. Pedophiles pick a certain type of woman to romance – an unsuspecting, kind-hearted or desperate-for-love woman. She will have a child or children, or she may have trusted access to children – like a nanny. I am thankful we were able to save our client’s family possible heartache, but what about the next family that this couple moved on to?
While a pedophile is defined as an adult who is sexually attracted to children, one reason behind that attraction is control and dominance. There’s also another type of pedophile we’ve discovered lurking in our communities - a predator who isn’t legally classified as a pedophile, but one who is preying upon the child-like. This sexual predator goes after a child-like adult – the mentally challenged. This offender can dominate and sexually manipulate a 30-year-old woman who has the mentality of a ten-year-old. This predator can act out his fantasies without being criminally charged. He can do anything he wishes to his prey and yet, she is considered a consenting adult if she is not classified as a protected adult. If you are the parent or guardian of a mentally challenged adult, without delay, get an attorney and have your child declared a protected person in a court of law. In the event one of these predators preys upon your child, you will have legal rights and remedies.
These are just a few of the ways that Sex Offenders and Pedophiles are able to walk freely among us undetected until they commit a crime. In no way do I claim to be an expert in the field of sex offenders. I am simply a concerned citizen who happens to be in a profession that allows me to stumble across valuable information I feel is of public service to share. It is mainly because I am also a parent of young children that compels me to want to do whatever small thing I can, to help save a child’s innocence or life.
If you need more information about talking to your child about sex-offenders and internet safety, please visit the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) website. The FBI also has online A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety. If you need someone checked out prior to giving them access to your home, child, your business or yourself, call Research Etc., Inc. Peace of mind doesn’t cost as much as you might think.
Kristen Hamilton, President of Research Etc
Research Etc., Inc.