California has lost track of 33,296 sex offenders, or 44 percent of the 76,350 who registered with the state at least once, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. California requires rapists and child molesters to register with law enforcement each year and the information is included in the Megan’s law database. The 1996 law is named after Megan Kanka, a 7 year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and killed by a known child molester who had moved in across the street. When presented with the AP‘s findings, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said, “Our system is inadequate, woefully inadequate. It can only be improved by putting money into the local law enforcement agencies. It’s a matter of resources.”
Despite the AP report, local police officials in California contend that Megan’s law is working, the Los Angeles Times reported today. Although the state has lost track of almost half of the sex offenders in the state, they argue that the cities’ police departments are keeping track of convicted sex offenders. AP acknowledged in their report that cities like Los Angeles and San Jose are well-funded and successfully keep track of sex offenders in their jurisdiction, but that other localities are less organized and understaffed.
Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, argues that the problem exists primarily because the law relies on sex offenders to provide their addresses themselves, reported AP. In Washington state, where the failure rate is only 10 percent, the police are required to visit sex offenders each year to confirm their location, rather than relying on convicted offenders to report in and give accurate information. Demonstrating the inadequacies of the California Megan’s law, recently arrested Kenneth Eugene Parnell, who is charged with trying to buy a child, was not considered a “high-risk” offender under the law despite having been convicted for lewd and lascivious conduct on a child in the 1950s and for kidnapping a child in 1972 and another in 1980, the Contra Costa Times reported.