In 1995, a previously convicted child molester was arrested and charged with the brutal rape and murder of 7-year old Megan Kanka. Unbeknownst to the Kanka family, the twice-convicted sex offender lived right across the street.
Unfortunately, the Police Department was prohibited from disclosing the presence of the sex offender in the neighborhood. The Kanka’s lobbied for laws requiring officials to adopt a notification policy, mandating the release of information pertaining to high risk sex offenders.
Megan's Law Passes
On May 8, 1996, federal legislation H.R. 2137 was passed, requiring state and local law enforcement agencies to release relevant information to protect the public from violent sex offenders. This legislation was appropriately named “Megan’s Law.”
On September 26, 1996, similar state legislation was signed into law creating California’s version of “Megan’s Law,” establishing strict registration and notification provisions for sex offenders. Upon release from custody, a sex offender is required to register at the local law enforcement agency in their city of residence. They must provide residency information, information about employment, and type of car(s) they drive. Each sex offender must register within five days of their birthday and within five days of changing their address or employment. Registration must be done annually for the rest of their lives.
What Determines Whether the Public is Notified?
- Megan’s Law authorizes but does not mandate law enforcement to release information to communities. However, agencies may notify the public about high risk and serious sex offenders who reside in, are employed in, or frequent the area.
- The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has specific guidelines and a strict dissemination policy that is handed down by County Council.
- The law specifies that there must be a balance between the privacy rights of the offender and the public's need to protect itself.
- A tiered classification system is used in the threat assessment of sex offenders. The assigned risk level governs how much information and where law enforcement is authorized to notify the public. The following are the basic classifications:
- Other: The least serious sex offenders, who have been convicted of a single misdemeanor sex offense.
- Serious: Has been convicted of a single felony offense or misdemeanor child molestation.
- High Risk: Has been convicted of at least one violent sex offense.
- Violent Offender: Has been convicted of at least one violent sex crime against one or more victims.
What Can We Do to Protect Our Family and Ourselves?
- Know your neighbors: joining a Neighborhood Watch group is a great way to help protect yourself.
- Educate yourself about who is living in your community by viewing the Megan’s Law website.
- Be suspicious of someone who seems more interested in spending time with your children rather than you.
- Don’t give out personal information over the Internet. Many predators find their victims in chat rooms and other online sites.
- Be suspicious of someone who regularly offers to babysit, help out, or take children on outings alone.
- If you live in an apartment or condo-complex, avoid being alone in the laundry facility or garage.
- Many convicted sex offenders have admitted that they knew their victims and had gained their trust.
How Can I Find Out if a Sex Offender Lives Near Me?
Laguna Niguel Police services and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is committed to keeping all of our residents informed about sexual offenders living near them. The City participates in the Megan’s Law Map Program which allows residents to access Megan’s Law Offender.
The public is allowed to search the Megan’s Law database by name, county and/or zip code. A person can access names, photos, physical descriptions, aliases, and a summary of sex offenses, but not the exact address of the offender. The site contains information on California’s sex registrants designated as “Serious” and “High Risk,” and is updated nightly by the Department of Justice. The Megan’s Law site is available for viewing at the following Orange County Sheriff’s Department locations:
Aliso Viejo Station
Aliso Viejo, CA
550 N. Flower
Santa Ana, CA
San Clemente Station
San Clemente, CA