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Attorney General Lockyer Statement on Problems with Megan's Law Data

Thursday, January 9, 2003
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today issued the following statement about problems with identifying the whereabouts of approximately 30-40 percent of the 100,000 sex offenders who are required to register with local law enforcement agencies:

"I welcome the attention and interest in this nationwide problem, which is no secret in the law enforcement community. I have sponsored efforts to improve the technology and make the data more accessible to the public, including making Megan's Law data available over the Internet. Further improvements to ensure that sex offender registrants are complying with registration laws will require local law enforcement agencies to spend more money to track those individuals and see that they comply with the law. It is important to recognize that California has statewide problems at least as significant as the fact that sex offenders are not complying with registration mandates. To name just one, California has over two million unserved arrest warrants, including at least 300,000 felony arrest warrants.

"The Department of Justice maintains the Megan's Law database, and in the last two years we have greatly improved the technology used to collect, retain and disseminate sex offender registration data; however, the information in the database is only as current as the information provided to us by local law enforcement agencies. The problem is local police chiefs and sheriffs have limited resources and must juggle many important duties, including investigating gang crimes, homicides and rapes.

"I estimate that in order to provide the appropriate number of staff and officers in each local law enforcement agency who are designated solely to track sex offenders in their community would cost approximately $15 million to $20 million.

"If lawmakers want to direct local law enforcement agencies to do a better job tracking sex offenders who don't register, I would urge them to appropriate money to fund a large number of officers designated to ensuring that sex offenders are complying with the law. I would be supportive of assigning state Department of Justice agents to lead local-state task forces. I would not support any efforts to re-prioritize or second-guess from Sacramento the law enforcement decisions about how to spend limited public safety dollars.

"An audit of the state database is welcome if it will help inform the public accurately of the scope of the problem and give government decision-makers a realistic and useful assessment of whether changes in statute or in the allocation of scarce dollars can help reduce or eliminate the problem. I will provide other specific recommendations to improve the system as this issue is considered by the Legislature."

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