This article by CityTV News is making the Facebook rounds this week. Last year, it was this article from my local paper. It allows you to enter the first three characters of your postal code (Canada) and find out how many registered sex offenders live in your "area".
Before you do that (it's at the bottom), read the whole article.
There are 1798 registered sex offenders in the Toronto area, with a compliance rate of 97%. The provincial total is 12 018 and there are also 112 sex offenders, in the whole province, who are not on the list due to no fixed address or postal code missing.
So often child protection programs focus on "stranger danger" and people always pipe up that strangers are not the real risk. That's very true. But shouldn't we know who these monsters are so we can choose to live in a "safe" neighbourhood, and protect our children? True again. But the Registered Sex Offenders list can not protect your children, nor really help you in any valuable way to protect them.
For example, entering the FIRST THREE characters of my postal code into the search box of that article reveals there are 40 registered sex offenders in my postal code zone. How big is that zone? Well, where I used to live in downtown Whitby, the postal code was L1N. Where I live now, it's also L1N, and we're about 2.8km apart (the black star and approximately the red dot). Where else in Whitby is L1N...I did a bit of Googling...all the way down to Victoria St in the south end (south of the 401), to Rossland Rd, just north of me. The west-east boundaries appear to be Cochrane St (just to the west of me) to the Oshawa-Whitby border. It takes me at least 10 minutes to get to that easterly border by car, along Rossland.
Take a look at this on the map:
Look how huge this area is. It encompasses the downtown, where there is a huge mix of socio-economic classes, and most of "old" Whitby. Oh...and it includes the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Services. AKA, "The Whitby Psych". Where there are people convicted of crimes but held here because they were deemed mentally/psychologically unable to be in a jail. I'm sure some of these inmates must be on that list.
And only 40 registered offenders for that entire area (including the OSCMHS).
It's important to look at what will get you on that list. The second article I linked to explains it a bit more, and also that offenders are not on the list "for life". This is both good and bad.
Some other things not mentioned in the article...teenagers...how many 16 year old girls are dating guys 18+......good news....that would no longer be a sexual offence as in 2006 the gov't created a close-in-age exemption for sex between 14-15 year olds and partners up to 5 years older....okay, so 18 year olds are no longer going on the registry for a sexual relationship with a 16 year old....but if one of the partners claims it's not consensual, and the partner is convicted...they're on the list.
The other things listed by the article...old man brushing a woman's legs on the bus. Is that sexual assault? If the victim views it as it is, then it is. Do we care how the old man viewed it? I'd be interested to know what he was thinking before shaming him to this list.
Yes, there are some violent, vicious, unsavoury people on this list. But is the list going to help you protect your children? It can't tell you where the offenders live. It can't tell you their name or show a picture. It can't tell you their crime.Sexual assault by someone in a position of trust (coach, pastor, etc) vs sexual assault by stranger, or by drunken miscommunication after a party?
How many of that 40 do we need to fear? Where are they? And if we knew who they were and where, what do we do with that info? Do we take our children to those addresses and say "watch out for this man"? For sure, if there was an address on that list that was directly in my neighbourhood, it would raise red flags and I'd be a little more vigilant, cautious, with my kids...but the old man rubbing a lady's legs is likely not interested in an 8 year old walking to Mac's.
I'm seeing so many people jumping to conclusions thanks to CityTV's article. "OMG, there's 40 in my neighbourhood". I really don't consider the L1N postal code my neighbourhood, and it's definitely NOT my children's neighbourhood.
Keep an eye on your local paper, see who gets arrested for crimes, and where they live, or follow your local police on FB or Twitter. Last spring I found out an 18 year old from our actual neighbourhood (on the main street that runs through our development) was arrested for a very violent, perhaps pre-meditated assault. He took concealed weapons to a large, public, holiday gathering. I think he might be the older brother of boys in my daughters classes. THESE are the types of things we need to know about and worry.