- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday announced his commitment to provide $250,000 to help local law enforcement track sex offenders.

The funding will provide the state police and local law enforcers with software to share data and give them access to national sex offender databases.

The governor, a Republican seeking re-election, hailed it as an important step in a statewide effort to better equip local police and the community.

“To see how far we’ve come in the last 14 months is really a big deal,” Mr. Ehrlich said at the Montgomery County Police Department’s Wheaton station.

He was flanked by members of local law enforcement, community activists and members of the Maryland Sexual Offender Advisory Board.

Karen Poe, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said: “The database feeds the names of the noncompliant and the absconded to see if their names pop up on any of these public databases for buying a house or car or anything like that.”

Ms. Poe said the money was included in Mr. Ehrlich’s fiscal 2008 budget.

Mr. Ehrlich’s announcement was the latest in a campaign over the past year to provide better tracking and supervision of sex offenders.

In June, the governor presented a toll free phone number (866/559-8017) for residents to call to track sex offenders in their area. He also announced an increase in the minimum sentences for violent sexual predators.

In August, Mr. Ehrlich introduced a system that allows residents to locate sex offenders through the Maryland Sex Offender Registry’s Web site (www.dpscs.state.md.us/sor).

Peggy Mainor, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, praised the announcement but said much more needs to be done.

Adults need to be taught to be on the lookout for sex offenders, she said.

“You can track them, but you need both sides of it,” she said. “What if a guy is babysitting for somebody? They need to know where to report it. You can’t expect an 8-year-old to protect himself from sex offenders.”

Mr. Ehrlich already has started providing funds for community meetings and public education, Ms. Poe said. “We’re always adding new initiatives,” she said.

The announcement comes less than two weeks before the Nov. 7 election. Mr. Ehrlich trails Democratic challenger Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley in the polls.

Mr. Ehrlich stressed that the effort to track sex offenders goes beyond politics. “Campaigns come and go, but this issue stays,” he said.

But O’Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese questioned the timing of the announcement.

“The fact that he is proposing this money two weeks before an election is clearly political,” he said.

Mr. Abbruzzese characterized the announcement as a “tale of two Bob Ehrlichs,” one who proposed additional funding for local jurisdictions to track sexual offenders but only during an election year, and the other who did not.

“It is too little too late,” he said.


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