Local lawmakers called for changes to the state’s sex offender laws during a Tuesday hearing at the State House.
State Senator Katherine Clark, who represents Stoneham, chaired the Joint Committee on the Judiciary hearing, focused on a bill she and Rep. Paul Brodeur are sponsoring. The legislation aims to address weaknesses in the sex offender registry system that were brought to light by the John Burbine child sex abuse case.
Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith testified at the hearing and was quoted in a Boston Herald report talking about how last summer a parent came to the station asking for information Level 1 sex offenders – and was unable to do so.
“They came to the window and asked, ‘Can I find out about a Level 1 sex offender?’ and the
officer said, ‘No, we can’t tell you any information about any Level 1 sex
offender.’ It stands out in our officer’s mind because it’s not very often that people come in and ask about
Level 1 sex offenders.” The Wakefield Police Chief was quoted as saying in the Boston Herald.
Soon after the arrest of John Burbine, Patch spoke with a local mother who had also unsuccessfully tried to look into the alleged child molester’s background after her child became a client of the former Waterfall Education Center. It was reported in regional media outlets soon after his arrest that Burbine, facing more than 100 total counts involving child molestation, had been a Level 1 sex offender since 1989.
“This legislation will strengthen our laws, provide more information to parents and caregivers, and require information sharing among law enforcement and the agencies we depend on to keep our kids safe,” said Clark.
In a statement, the lawmakers noted that their bill, An Act to Protect our Communities, has 27 co-sponsors and strong support from Middlesex County DA Marian Ryan.
“It will improve existing laws, improve agency practices and keep our children safe,” added Brodeur.
The lawmakers reported that the legislation would do the following:
- Allow limited public access to Level 1 offender information, currently unavailable to the public. This change would enable police departments to share information when presented with a specific request by a parent or caregiver.
- Create a rebuttable presumption that an offender convicted of a crime involving a child should be classified as at least a Level 2 offender.
- Provide for direct access to Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) information by agencies responsible for ensuring child safety.
- Grant SORB the authority to reclassify offenders on its own initiative or upon written request by a District Attorney or police department.
- Require the creation of a structured system of communication among the District Attorneys, police, SORB, and other state agencies to facilitate the sharing of all information that may have bearing on the reclassification of a sex offender.
- Establish a commission to determine the best methods of classifying sex offenders.
- Clarify registration requirements and information to be reported.
- Require the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to publish licensing information on its website.
The full text of the bill is available at: http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/188/Senate/S656.