Protecting Children From Sex Offenders

I am writing on behalf of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in response to "Sex-Crime Laws Draw More Flak" (Aug. 13) on community notification about sex offenders and the tension between children's safety and offenders' privacy.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) studies and raises public awareness about ways to prevent child abduction, molestation, and sexual exploitation. We have long supported community notification or "Megan's Law" statutes and disagree with some of the issues raised in the article.

First, consider the quote by a University of California at Berkeley law professor who stated that there is no evidence the practice of sex offense is increasing or that the recidivism rate among sex offenders is any higher than for other crimes.

On the contrary, we believe there is evidence that sex offenses, especially those against children, are increasing. According to the US Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, since 1980 the number of prisoners sentenced for violent sexual assault other than rape increased by an annual average of nearly 15 percent - faster than any other category of violent crime. Of the estimated 95,000 sex offenders in state prisons today, well over 60,000 most likely committed their crime against a child under 18.

Compounding this growing problem is the high rate of recidivism among sex offenders. A review of frequently cited studies of sex offender recidivism indicates that offenders who molest young girls repeat their crimes at rates up to 25 percent, and offenders who molest young boys, at rates up to 40 percent. Moreover, the recidivism rates do not appreciably decline as offenders age.

Finally, the article mentioned critics who question the effectiveness of notification laws. Because it is difficult if not impossible to prove a negative, we may never know precisely how many children have been saved. But there is strong anecdotal evidence of such laws' effectiveness

Sex offender notification is not a panacea, but it is a simple, commonsensical approach to protecting society from sexual predators.

Todd Mitchell

Arlington, Va.

Manager of Governmental Affairs, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Lists and more lists

"Admit it: We love lists." In this belief, the Monitor has taken to wasting part of "The News in Brief" on lists of cities "most livable" for boring reasons, people who collect the most dollars, and the like. It must be related to the ranking obsession that spoils everything from art shows to sheepdog trials.

Any list distresses by its exclusions; numbered lists are the worst. These ephemeral lists of "100 Best Novels" [reprinted in the July 23 Ideas section] are among the most blundering: They include several of the masterpieces of affected overwriting by Vladimir Nabokov and Salman Rushdie, and nothing by Joyce Cary, whom I would call "the finest novelist of the 20th century" if superlatives weren't part of the same crassness. One can't help suspect that the committee types who compile these lists spend their reading time hunting from one recommendation to another from other people's lists, instead of setting themselves free in the infinity that is literature.

Guy Ottewell

Greenville, S.C.

Universal Workshop, Furman University

Inappropriate cartoon

The cartoon with the back-to-school sale at the gun store (Aug. 14) was inappropriate. Imagine how an individual, whose life had been permanently damaged and altered by acts of school violence, would feel upon seeing this. Shame on you!

Kim E. Buckhalter

Acton, Calif.

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