I receive a ton of email press releases each day, as does every other reporter here at the Daily Globe. A large percentage of them have nothing to do with our coverage area and are promptly deleted. I get probably 15 a day from the FBI, alerting me to changes in the agents in charge in Pennsylvania or an addition to the 10 most wanted fugitives in Montana…stuff like that.
Yesterday I received a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that I almost deleted, but something about it made me pause.
Maybe it was because I interviewed Aaron Larson a few months ago about his friendship with Jacob Wetterling and it made an impression on me. Maybe it’s because it seems I have to read a higher amount of sex crime complaints each year. Or maybe it’s because a little girl in Florida who went missing was found dead in a Georgia landfill this week and it made my heart hurt.
The news release states $8.3 million (or $7.3 million, depending on which line of the release you look at – must be a typo some-where) in grant assistance for state, local and tribal government in Fiscal Year 2009 was made available for use in implementing, training, maintaining and enhancing sex offender programs throughout the United States.
Bear with me for a moment while I sort through the acronyms. You know how the government loves acronyms.
The DOJ’s Office of Justice Program (OJP) administers an office known as SMART – Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. The grants, which will be administered by SMART, broke down into three areas of funding: Adam Walsh Act (Title I) implementation, Comprehensive Approaches to Sex Offender Management (CASOM) and the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). Just to toss in one more, part of the Adam Walsh Act legislation included SORNA – the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
While I am glad that all these acronymed offices and groups exist in an effort to protect children and adults from bad people, I find it sad there is a need for them. One that seems to be growing.
As far as I know, nothing has been announced yet about little Somer Thompson’s death having anything to do with a sex offender, but I know the local sheriff in Florida has mentioned more than once they have been questioning the registered sex offenders in the area. The Florida law enforcement records show that 161 offenders live in a 5-mile radius of the little girl’s home, which the sheriff in Clay County, Florida, said is not an unusual concentration.
At this, I was truly shocked. I know there are sex offenders everywhere, but that many in a 5-mile radius? Whoa.
I know I shouldn’t be so surprised. I read things that most people don’t want to hear about. I sort through details about crimes and leave out the parts that will make people sick to their stomachs yet every now and then run across people who want more detail. (I always wonder what kind of sick individual would want to hear it and why they actually pursue it.) I listen in court as people make excuses or just lie about hurting people.
And it still surprises me. The lies, the hatred, the violence, the pain and the death.
Just think, the government is spending millions of dollars to try to track sex offenders, yet little girls still disappear only to be found in garbage dumps, thrown away like someone’s unwanted trash.
Was it a sex offender who murdered that child? I don’t know. But after spending $8.3 million, shouldn’t the government?