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Monday, May 7, 2007

New Jersey Discovers that Megan's Law May Not Make Children Safer

From philly.com: New Jersey's pioneering Megan's Law, which costs millions of dollars to alert citizens when sex offenders move nearby, may not make children safer, new research suggests.

A federally funded study under way in Trenton is trying to determine whether Megan's Law is worth the cost of its "enormously expensive" monitoring and enforcement requirements, said Phillip Witt, a consultant on the study.

A declining trend of sex attacks on children began before the law took effect and has continued, raising the suggestion that New Jersey's Megan's Law - one of the first laws of its kind in the nation - may not have influenced the trend, researchers say.

"We don't know whether Megan's Law really works," said Witt, who helped create the risk-assessment system used by New Jersey's courts to classify sex offenders.

"Just a few studies have looked at whether community notification laws are effective," he said. "I believe they have very little effect."

The 1994 law is named after Megan Kanka, a suburban Trenton girl who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender living across the street. It has been a model for dozens of state laws across the country.

The law requires sex criminals to report their whereabouts to law enforcement authorities, who must maintain a catalog of the offenders and notify residents when a high-risk offender moves nearby. The tracking and notification apparatus in New Jersey costs county and local governments millions of dollars. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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