The parents of 7-year old Megan Kanka of Hamilton Township did not know that a twice-convicted sex offender was living across the street until that neighbor was charged with the brutal rape and murder of their daughter.
The crime, occurring only months after a similar incident in Monmouth County, prompted passage of a state law requiring notification about sex offenders who may pose a risk to the community.
New Jersey's law, commonly known as "Megan's Law", requires convicted sex offenders to register with local police. Megan's Law also establishes a three-tier notification process to provide information about offenders to law enforcement agencies and, when appropriate, to the public. The type of notification is based on an evaluation of the risk to the community from a particular offender. The Attorney General's Office, in consultation with a special 12-member council, has provided county prosecutors, who must make that evaluation, with the factors to be used in determining the level of risk posed by the offender.
Equipped with the descriptions and whereabouts of high risk sex offenders, communities will be better able to protect their children.
For more information, you can contact our department's Megan's Law Officer:
Det. Brian Williams
973-627-4900 x 363
What is the purpose of Megan's Law?
Megan's Law is designed to help protect our communities by providing information about convicted sex offenders to law enforcement agencies and, in the case of moderate and high risk offenders, to community organizations and the public. The notice will allow communities to take informed and responsible steps to prevent harm to their children.
Are all sex offenders required to register with local police?
Sex offenders who have been released from custody since Megan's Law went into effect on October 31, 1994, are required to register with their local police department. In addition, offenders who were on parole or probation on the effective date of the law, as well as offenders who have been found to be repetitive and compulsive by experts and the courts -- regardless of the date of sentence -- are also required to register. Some registrants must verify their addresses every 90 days.
What types of offenses require registration?
The offenses include aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct, endangering the welfare of a child by participating in child pornography, child luring and, if the victim were a minor and the offender not a parent, kidnapping, criminal restraint and false imprisonment.
How does the notification process work?
The State Departments of Corrections and Human Services are responsible for informing county prosecutors about the anticipated release of sex offenders. In turn, the prosecutors must determine the risk to the community -- the likelihood that the offender will commit another crime. Hearings are provided to those offenders who challenge the prosecutor's risk determination or the proposed scope of notification. Notification can proceed when the court issues a final order authorizing the county prosecutor to provide relevant information to the appropriate groups or individuals.
Will I always be notified if a convicted sex offender moves into my neighborhood?
Under the law, sex offenders who reside in the community are classified by prosecutors in one of three "tiers" based on the degree of risk they pose to the public: high (Tier 3), moderate (Tier 2) or low (Tier 1). Neighbors are notified only of high risk offenders. Schools and registered community organizations involved in the care of children or women notified of moderate and high risk offenders because of the possibility that pedophiles and sexual predators will be drawn to these places. Law enforcement agencies are notified of the presence of all sex offenders.
What factors are considered in determining the risk of re-offense?
Megan's Law and its guidelines list numerous factors to be considered in weighing the risk of re-offense, including post-incarceration supervision, the status of therapy or counseling, criminal background, degree of remorse for criminal acts, substance abuse, employment or schooling status, psychological or psychiatric profile and a history of threats or of stalking locations where children congregate.
What information is provided in a notification?
In all three levels of notification, the information provided includes the offender's name, description and photograph, address, place of employment or school if applicable, a description of the offender's vehicle and license plate number and a brief description of the offense.
How will I be informed?
You will receive personal notification of the location of all Tier 3 (high risk) offenders in your neighborhood that you are likely to encounter. A law enforcement official, such as a police officer or investigator from your county prosecutor's office, will come to your door and provide you with the pertinent information about offenders in your neighborhood.
What should I do if I receive a notification?
Reinforce general precautions about staying away from strangers and ask your children to tell you or their caretakers where they will be at all times. Use the information responsibly. Talk to your children. Tell them to treat the sex offender as a stranger. Tell them where the sex offender lives, what he or she looks like and what to do if they encounter or are approached by that person. If you believe that a crime is being committed by a sex offender contact your local law enforcement agency immediately as you would do in any case of suspected criminal activity.
Are there any other steps I can take to protect my family?
Yes. There is no law that can ever completely protect us. Adults need to teach children about basic safety precautions. Check with your child's school to determine whether a program is in place to teach children about strangers. Also, check with the school and other locations where your child spends time on a regular basis to determine whether safety precautions are in place.