- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has asked Maryland officials to make the state registry of sex offenders more accurate.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said yesterday on WBAL Radio that the issue would be a prominent part of the coming legislative session.

Under the existing system, offenders provide their addresses and local law-enforcement agencies must check on the accuracy.

Mr. Ehrlich said most criminals are considered rehabilitated once they have served their terms, but sex offenders — particularly pedophiles — are prone to abuse again.

“The science is that pedophilia is not curable so what do you do?” he asked. “That is the issue we’re struggling with as an administration and as a society.”

David P. Wolinski, director of the state’s Criminal Justice Information System, acknowledges the state system needs improvement.

“It’s not perfect,” he said. “An offender can give us an address today and pack up the moving van tomorrow. Unless someone tells us, we won’t know until their annual registration is overdue.”

He also said the state plans to introduce a new computerized system to allow local authorities to update information about sex offenders online, instead of using the existing mail-based system.

On Friday, Col. Thomas E. Hutchins, state police superintendent, and Public Safety Secretary Mary Ann Saar said Mr. Ehrlich had asked them to work with local police and sheriffs, then submit recommendations for making the registry more accurate.

“It’s a flawed system,” said Lt. Robin Roberts, an investigator with the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Roberts said he found eight sex offenders last week on the state’s Web site about whom he had not been informed.

A survey by the Baltimore Sun of the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore City found a wide variety of policies to verify the accuracy of the registry for the state’s 4,300 convicted sex offenders.

For example, in Calvert County, sheriff’s deputies check several times on those listed on the registry. But in Somerset County, officials say they don’t have the manpower.

The review also found discrepancies on the number and type of sex offenders.

For example, the state registry lists three sexually violent predators while local law-enforcement agencies report twice that many.

While Maryland’s system has won praise, including an A-plus grade by Parents for Megan’s Law, a national advocacy group, the ratings are based on how much information is provided to the public, not the accuracy of the information.

“There has to be a public outrage over this,” said Pat Cronin, executive director of the Family Tree, a nonprofit group dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect. “If there isn’t, there will never be the resources dedicated to it.”



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