Registered Sex Offenders’ Information Would Be More Public Under Proposed Bill

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It will be easier to obtain information about registered sex offenders in the territory under a bill introduced in the V.I. Senate by Senator at Large Craig Barshinger which would change the V.I. sex offender registry law.

The Department of Justice recently denied a St. John Trade-winds request for a list of registered sex offenders in the territory by citing the V.I. code, which specifies with who and under what circumstances the information may be released.

“It seems very strange that the law wouldn’t even allow a reporter to get a list of convicted sex offenders,” said Barshinger. “We need to have public knowledge of people who are convicted sex offenders.”

Access Limited
The 1997 Sexual Offender Registration and Community Protection law, provides access to the territory’s sexual offender registry to “any law enforcement agency for law enforcement purposes, and to government agencies conducting confidential background checks.”

The law also requires the V.I. Attorney General, a position currently held by Kerry Drue, to “notify the owner of a child-care facility whenever a person who is required to register under this chapter lives within a one-mile radius of that child-care facility.” Schools must also be notified, said Department of Justice (DOJ) Special Programs Coor-dinator Judy Gomez.

Julius E. Sprauve School principal Mario Francis said he has not been notified of any sex offenders in the area of the school during his six years at the Cruz Bay school.

It is unclear whether there are any sex offenders living within a one-mile radius of the school.

Intended To Be Public
Former Senator Allie-Allison Petrus, who proposed the Sexual Offender Registration and Community Protection law in 1997, said he was surprised to hear a request by St. John Tradewinds for a list of the territory’s registered sex offenders was denied.

“It was intended to be public information,” he said in an early-March interview. “It was never intended to be a protection for sex offenders. That should be clarified.”

Barshinger recognized Petrus’ legislation was not being interpreted the way he intended.

“I put in a bill request to update the (V.I.) sex offender registry law, because I understand that Petrus had put through legislation that wasn’t having any teeth,” said Barshinger. “It wasn’t being used the way he hoped it would be.”

It is important to keep track of sex offenders, because they are known to re-offend on a more regular basis than other criminals.

“Sex offenders are known to be difficult to rehabilitate,” said Barshinger. “People who get in this mode can’t do much to stop themselves.”

Likely To Re-Offend
“So, for the good of themselves and the community, we really need to make their information public,” he added.

When citizens are notified a sex offender is living in their area, they can take the proper precautions and talk to their children about the potential danger they face, according to Barshinger.

The proposed legislation would bring the U.S. Virgin Islands in line with the rest of the U.S.

All 50 states provide registered sex offenders’ information on-line, and many states even provide the offenders photos, information of the crime they committed and their physical address.

“I suspected there was a need for better legislation,” said Barshinger. “I put in legislation to update it to the current standard, because we certainly need that.”

“We need to update ourselves, and the Tradewinds has proved that point by trying to make a request and being denied,” the senator added.