The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

January 17, 2014

A flaw in the system | Megan's law registry needs to be tightened

JOHNSTOWN — Timothy Lee Jones is a hard man to locate, according to the Johnstown police.

That’s a very bad thing, as Jones is a convicted sex offender who was placed in the Megan’s law registry program in October 2007.

That means that Jones must report his address to authorities, who can then alert the public of where he is residing. Yet, Jones continues to slip through the cracks.

Randy Griffith reported last week that Johnstown police were on the lookout for the 28-year-old, and it’s nothing new. This is the third time in two years that Jones has been charged with a failure to report, according to city police Detective Julie Wagner.

“It is very common,” Wagner said. “I have three individuals now that I have arrested multiple times for the same thing.”

That’s a frightening statement. If someone is required to register as a sex offender or sexual predator, there is a reason behind it – for Jones it was because he pleaded guilty six years ago to indecent assault of a child younger than 16 – and the public needs to know where he is living.

Cases like Jones’ and the others that Wagner spoke of make us wonder about the effectiveness of the Megan’s law registry. If Jones or any other Megan’s law offender is making a habit out of failing to register, the system needs to be fixed.

Jones was paroled in August 2008 after serving the minimum five-month prison term for his conviction and was still on parole when he first failed to report, according to court documents.

He served another two months in county jail for the parole violation before he was released in February 2012. Two years later, he was charged with failing to provide accurate information in November 2011. Those charges were withdrawn a month later, but by then he faced more charges for failing to report in February 2012.

He pleaded guilty and was released on parole with time served in June 2012. Another parole violation, another stint in jail and another charge of failing to register followed, although the charges were dismissed when a relative failed to testify against him.

Noticing a pattern here?

Jones obviously doesn’t respect the Megan’s law program and, based on his conviction, he doesn’t respect children or his community.

We’re willing to bet Jones isn’t alone. The idea behind the Megan’s law program is a good one. We should be able to know if our neighbor is a sex offender so that we can be even more vigilant about protecting our children. But cases like Jones’ show that there is an obvious flaw in the way the program is being run. A slap on the wrist isn’t an effective deterrent for someone like Jones.

Failure to register should land a Megan’s law offender a much longer jail sentence – maybe equal to or even greater than the one for the original crime. That might give offenders pause when it came to deciding whether or not to register a new address. And, if that doesn’t do the trick? Well, they won’t be able to hurt any children from behind prison walls.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Editorials
Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads