How can parents learn if there are sex offenders living in their neighborhood or near their child’s school? How can we protect our children?
In New York State, pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) – New York’s version of Megan’s Law – convicted sex offenders must register with a special sex offender registry. Sex offenders who fail to register or re-locate without notifying law enforcement face prosecution by my office. All concerned parents and guardians should visit the New York State Criminal Justice Services’ (NYSCJS) Web site at www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us, or call them toll free at 1-800-262-3257. The NYSCJS Web site and staff provide an overview of SORA, give tips on how to keep children safe, and explain how the public can obtain information about sex offenders. “SAFE CHILD CARDS” can be obtained through the Web site or at other listed locations. These cards contain a high-resolution photograph of your child, up-to-date height and weight information and a digital fingerprint, all of which can help the police respond quickly if a child disappears. If your child is missing, call 911 immediately – every second counts.
In addition, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) releases SORA information to New York City public schools. Principals maintain a book listing information about the sex offenders living in their area. The book is available for parents and guardians to review. At the start of each school year, principals send letters to parents outlining safety tips and informing them about the book. If an offender moves into a neighborhood during the school year, NYPD provides updated information, which is then sent out to the parents.
As a father and grandfather, I remind everyone of the importance of speaking with their children about personal safety. Let them know they can and must stand up to adults when necessary. If someone tries to take them, they should scream for help. They should never get into a stranger’s car. If they are being followed, they should run to the home of a neighbor, a friend, a school, or even a store to get help. Approach police officers, mail carriers, school safety agents, and firefighters with your child. Let your child know these adults can help them.
Finally, abuse is often perpetrated by a person a child knows. Children must learn to tell someone if an adult makes them feel uncomfortable. Moreover, we must all be proactive if we suspect a child is being abused. Do not look the other way. Alert the authorities. Children are helpless victims, and we are all responsible for their care.
Charles J. Hynes