This week Sharp County's Level 3 sex offenders' pictures and addresses have been printed in the Villager Journal. In the next few weeks we will be printing Izard County sex offenders in The News and Oregon County offenders in The South Missourian News. Then our goal of getting information out to the public will have been accomplished -- for a while. With the help of local law enforcement we will continue to publish information about new offenders moving into the area and addresses of those who have a habit of moving around.
The feedback we received after the Fulton County offenders were published in The News was positive and we hope that continues as we publish the other counties.
The decision to print these pictures and addresses was made because the law says that people must be notified when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood. Sometimes law enforcement prints flyers and goes door to door notifying residents. Sometimes, they ask the local newspaper to help with this effort. If our doing this keeps a child from being harmed, it is worth everything.
We know this type of newspaper coverage is frowned on by some people who feel it reflects badly on our area. I think they are wrong. By putting this information out there, we show new residents and visitors how important our children are to us. They should feel proud -- and safer -- knowing they are in an area where neighbors care about neighbors.
It's a fact that sex offenders believe that rural areas are a great place to live under the radar. Law enforcement departments are small and "country folks" are friendly and trusting. We can't allow that belief to continue. We need to be known as the rural area where law enforcement as well as neighbors keep a very close watch on sex offenders. If there is even a small chance they may hurt one of our children - they are not wanted here.
One county that deserves praise is Izard County. They have the most aggressive sex offender notification program in this area - and it is working. They have eight offenders in their county and two are currently in the DOC. This is the lowest count in the area. A year or more ago, Izard County had a sex offender move into their area from another state. His picture and address was sent to every newspaper in the area along with a picture of the place he was living and the car he was driving. It wasn't long before this man moved out of Izard County and the state of Arkansas. Only a few weeks after he left this area he was arrested in another state for another sexual offense. Because of Izard County's aggressive program, a child in this area was spared a horrible fate.
Study, after study, after study, have proven that sex offenders at Level 3 and Level 4 often repeat sexual offenses. Some do overcome their perverted desires and never hurt a child again, but not all -- and not most.
We cannot let our guard down. We all have to remain watchful so these people cannot hurt another child.
I received some information from a reader this week. There was no return address and no signature. A picture from the ACIC Web site was attached to Internet articles from the Democrat Gazette published in the mid 90s. There was one written sentence -- "You missed one." I want to thank that person for their concern and for sending the information to me. I have given copies of the articles to some people who needed to read them.
I knew about him, but his picture was not published because he has submitted a petition to the Sex Offender Screening and Risk Assessment Program of the Arkansas Department of Correction to have his Level decreased from Level 3. Rhonda Long, the Fulton County deputy in charge of the sex offender registry in Fulton County, made the decision not to publish it until this petition is decided. If it's not lowered we will publish his information. But, if anyone is curious they can go to www.acic.org; his picture and information was still posted as of press time.
Agree or disagree? We'd like to hear from you. Send us your opinion (complete with your name, town and phone number) to Opinion, PO Box 248, Salem, AR 72576 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.