In 1995, a previously convicted child molester was arrested and charged with the brutal rape and murder of 7-year old Megan Kanka. Unbeknownst to the Kanka family, the twice-convicted sex offender lived right across the street from them. Unfortunately, the local Police Department was prohibited from disclosing the presence of the sex offender in the neighborhood. The Kanka’s lobbied for laws requiring officials to adopt a notification policy, mandating the release of information pertaining to high risk sex offenders.
Megan’s Law Passes
On May 8, 1996, federal legislation H.R. 2137 was passed, requiring state and local law enforcement agencies to release relevant information to protect the public from violent sex offenders. This legislation was appropriately named “Megan’s Law.”
On September 26, 1996, similar state legislation was signed into law creating California’s version of “Megan’s Law,” establishing strict registration and notification provisions for sex offenders. Upon release from custody, a sex offender is now required to register at the local law enforcement agency in their city of residence. They must provide not only residency information, but information about employment and type of car(s) they drive. Also, each sex offender must register annually within 5 days of their birthday and within 5 days of changing their address or employment. Registration must be done annually for the rest of their lives.
What Determines Whether The Public Is Notified?
Megan's Law authorizes but does not mandate law enforcement to release information to communities. However, agencies may notify the public about high risk and serious sex offenders who reside in, are employed in, or frequent an area.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department has very specific guidelines and a strict dissemination policy that is handed down by County Council.
The law specifies that there must be a balance between the privacy rights of the offender and the public's need to protect itself.
A tiered classification system is used in the threat assessment of sex offenders. The assigned risk level governs how much information and where law enforcement is authorized to notify the public. The following are the basic classifications:
Other: The least serious sex offenders, who have been convicted of a single misdemeanor sex offense. Serious: Has been convicted of a single felony offense or misdemeanor child molestation. High Risk: Has been convicted of at least one violent sex offense. Violent Offender: Has been convicted of at least one violent sex crime against one or more victims.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Family and Yourself
Know your neighbors; joining a Neighborhood Watch group is a great way to help protect yourself.
Educate yourself about who is living in your community by viewing the Megan's Law website.
Be suspicious about someone who seems more interested in your children rather than you.
Don't give out personal information on the Internet. Many predators find their victims in chat rooms and other online sites.
Be suspicious of someone who regularly offers to babysit, help out or take children on outings alone.
If you live in an apartment or condo complex, avoid being alone in the laundry facility or garage by yourself.
How Can I Find Out If A Sex Offender Lives Near Me?
Lake Forest Police Services and the Orange County Sheriff's Department are committed to keeping our residents informed about sexual offenders living near them. Residents can access the Megan's Law website and view information about sexual offenders.
For further information, residents can contact one of the following Orange County Sheriff's Department stations:
OC Sheriff’s Dept.
OC Sheriff’s Dept.
OC Sheriff’s Dept.
Aliso Viejo, Station
San Clemente Station
11 Journey, Aliso Viejo
550 N. Flower, Santa Ana
100 Presidio, San Clemente
For additional information about Megan’s Law, please contact Rich Nelson 461-3545.