Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: sex offenders

April
23rd

Warn parents, kids when predators are classmates

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

School is supposed to be a safe harbor for students, not a place where sex predators can connect with them while posing as normal students. But that’s a real risk in Washington schools, as an outrageous Clark County case shows.

Jeremiah Thompson – a 19-year-old senior at Prairie High in Vancouver – was charged last week with raping a 14-year-old off campus on April 12. The girl reportedly had agreed to hook up with him at a nearby grocery store; whatever her intentions, she was well below the age of consent, and she sought medical care and a rape kit afterwards.

Let’s take a wild guess: She might have been less dazzled by Thompson if she’d known he was a registered sex offender, not just a senior interested in a freshman.
Another wild guess: Her parents might have warned her to watch out for him if they’d known he had a scary criminal record.

And scary it was. He’d been running into trouble with the law since he was 13. Three years ago, he was charged with molesting a 7-year-old girl and plea-bargained a lesser offense.

A month later, he sexually assaulted his mother, then assaulted his brother after he pulled Thompson off her.

Sweet guy. He was convicted (as a juvenile) of both crimes; after that, he repeatedly violated probation, failed drug tests and did stints in juvenile detention, according to the Vancouver Columbian.

Somehow, Thompson wound up being classified as a “Level 2” sex offender, a medium-risk category. Teenagers have a right to a public education regardless of their criminal histories. He wound up back in a regular school with access to every girl at Prairie High. No one warned his fellow students or their parents.
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Nov.
28th

There’s a high price to be paid for moving SCC from McNeil

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Some lawmakers are considering whether to move the Special Commitment Center for violent sex offenders off McNeil Island as a way to help close the state’s $2 billion-plus budget gap. It has become more expensive to run since closure of the state prison on the island.

The only two choices for relocation being discussed, according to a report Sunday by The News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader, are Western State Hospital in Lakewood and the shuttered Maple Lane School in Ground Mound near Centralia.

Lawmakers should consider a few facts about those locations that make it hard to see where short-term savings could be made – and short-term is what the state needs right now.

Consider:
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June
6th

Schools should keep close tabs on young sex offenders

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Jose Reyes, who until last month was a student at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, has a rap sheet that should raise the hairs on any school administrator’s neck.

The 18-year-old has a history of preying on young girls. He was spotted masturbating in the Seattle Public Library at age 13. By the time he was 15, he was luring elementary-age girls from public parks and a library with promises of children’s collectible trading cards.

He fondled one of the girls in a parking lot. He was later convicted of indecent liberties with force and classified a Level II sex offender.

The conditions of Reyes’ probation included remaining in school, which he did. Districts can’t bar sex offenders from enrolling; a couple hundred attend public schools in Washington.

Police apparently told Roosevelt officials that Reyes was a sex offender, but no one at the school passed that information along to the district so that a safety plan could be developed and extra monitoring provided.

This spring, Reyes started hanging around a 14-year-old developmentally delayed classmate. His interest in the girl, which was apparently known to fellow students if not school staffers, should have set off alarms.

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April
21st

Silly season has officially begun

This just in from state Sen. Don Benton’s campaign for U.S. Senate:

Benton Calls Murray Out on Supporting Viagra for Sex Offenders

TUMWATER, WA – The Benton for U.S. Senate Campaign today announced they have posted an educational video on the web designed to show Washington State voters how their tax dollars are being spent in Washington, D.C. The recently passed healthcare reform bill, supported by Senator Patty Murray, included provisions for registered sex offenders to receive government assistance for prescription drugs such as Viagra.

Now I will be the first to admit that I haven’t read every page of

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April
4th

Oversight key to better sex offender registry

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

At the state Capitol, the right thing sometimes happens for the political reason.

Case in point: A program that sends police officers to sex offenders’ homes became a permanent part of state law last week, allowing lawmakers to save face for dismantling the most dangerous offenders’ reporting requirement.

The grant program, operating since 2008, was a reaction to the murder of Zina Linnik, a Tacoma girl abducted from her Hilltop neighborhood and killed by a sex offender. A sex offender task force established after Linnik’s murder suggested the state do more to help keep track of sex offenders.

The state’s sex offender registry is a creation of state law, but day-to-day management of it falls to local police agencies. In the past, the state outsourced the job without sending money to do it. The result was uneven enforcement. How well the job got done depended on the agency’s ability to dedicate manpower to it. In Tacoma, one detective was assigned to monitor 1,200 offenders.

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March
7th

Sex offender registries valuable – to a point

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

A tragic case in California has put a spotlight on the issue of sex offenders and the registries that are supposed to keep track of where they’re living.

In theory, sex offender registries provide a measure of comfort for citizens, assurance that someone, somewhere is keeping tabs on those who have preyed on the more vulnerable in the past and may again.

But in practice, that’s often not the case. That’s been all too painfully pointed out in California, which has been requiring sex offenders to register with local authorities for 50 years and has been making the information available to the public since the mid-1990s.

The man charged with the murder of 17-year-old San Diego honors student Chelsea King was registered as a sex offender – just not in Chelsea’s county. When police started looking at local sex offenders, John Albert Gardner III’s name didn’t come up. Now Gardner is a suspect in crimes involving other girls in the area – girls who bear striking resemblances to Chelsea King. Read more »