Local News

Lawmakers Backing a Bill to Register Sex Offenders

Posted May 16, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Everyone wants to stop child molestation, but no one seems to know exactly how to go about it.

North Carolina lawmakers are backing a bill which would require sex offenders to register their whereabouts with the state, but not everyone thinks it will work. Most lawmakers are in favor of it. It has passed the Senate judiciary committee, but a lot of parents say it doesn't go far enough when it comes to protecting children.

At the other end of the spectrum is the American Civil Liberties Union which says the bill is the wrong way to solve the problem.

Debbie Newhart is a concerned parent. She says parents can only do so much and that something needs to be done to offer protection when parents aren't around.

Parents say convicted sex offenders could be waiting for your child. If North Carolina passes a sex registry bill, sex offenders here will soon find themselves on a web site like one in Florida.

But some parents say the bill has no teeth because it only requires those released from prison after January 1, 1996 to register. Newhart knows first hand. Her family was affected by a perpetrator convicted before the cut-off date.

The ACLU believes lawmakers' support is merely political grandstanding and that the bill doesn't really get to the heart of the problem. North Carolina ACLU Director Deborah Ross believes the bill will give people a false sense of security. She believes it will divert people's attention from where most child abuse happens-- in the home.

The ACLU would rather see more tax dollars going into counseling offenders than the registry. Parents would like to see the bill go further, becoming retroactive to include offenders prior to 1996.

The full Senate is expected to take a vote this week. A house committee is also considering the bill.