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We must strengthen laws involving sexual predators: Tom Mehaffie

Posted 6/6/18

As precious members of our society, our children and grandchildren are the future of our country with the promise of a bright future.

Unfortunately, there are adults within our population who …

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We must strengthen laws involving sexual predators: Tom Mehaffie

Posted

As precious members of our society, our children and grandchildren are the future of our country with the promise of a bright future.

Unfortunately, there are adults within our population who prey upon them with sick intent regardless of the harm they inflict or the lifelong effects.

To assist parents in the responsibility of raising their children, Pennsylvania has maintained a law on its books since 1996 to target those who harm kids. Megan’s Law, named after a young girl who was brutally raped and murdered in New Jersey in 1994, is a state law that requires sexual offenders to register their whereabouts, employers, addresses and offenses on a publicly accessible Internet database.

For more than 20 years, families have relied upon information on this website to protect their children from sexual offenders who may reside in their neighborhood.

While we know that the enactment of Megan’s Law has greatly assisted law enforcement and our communities, it’s imperative, as lawmakers, that we revisit the law frequently to ensure no gaps in protections exist.

In response to two state appellate court cases, legislation was passed by the General Assembly and will be before the governor to ensure certain sexual offenders continue to be required to register their whereabouts.

House Bill 1952 seeks to expand upon Act 10 of 2018, which re-implemented the Adam Walsh Act, commonly known as Megan’s Law. Both House Bill 1952 and Act 10 were needed to close any loopholes that may have allowed sexual offenders who were convicted before 2012 to skip the registration process.

The legislation seeks to put back in place the important safety net to protect Pennsylvania’s children from dangerous sex offenders. This legislation is a crucial step in the safety and security of our communities and our children, but I believe we should take Megan’s Law one step further.

Statistics overwhelmingly show that people who commit sex crimes against children do not respond well to treatment programs and will likely continue to offend. Perpetrators of these crimes must not be permitted to roam freely near children. The risk is too great.

Therefore, I recently drafted legislation in the House of Representatives which would establish a residency restriction for sexual offenders registered under Megan’s Law.

My legislation would prohibit Megan’s Law registrants from residing within 5,000 feet of any public school, private school, parochial school or preschool.

Currently, under Pennsylvania law, there are no residency restrictions for sexual offenders other than the requirement to notify the school district that a sexual predator resides within a one-mile radius.

We have an obligation to ensure our children are protected from those who wish them harm. I am committed to moving this legislation forward. It is my hope that with the signing of House Bill 1952 into law and the passage of basic residency requirements, we can provide a stronger safety net for our children.

State Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, represents the 106th House District. Reach him at 717-534-1323 or tmehaffie@pahousegop.com.