Tuesday, January 30, 2007

They're in your neighborhood

by Judith Evans Thomas

Yesterday, one of our members posted a website for monitering criminals in our neighborhoods. My initial reaction was … great. How nice. I logged onto the National Sex Offender Registry. A cute little bulldog … well the spike collar was a little weird/ugly but got the message across. We were dealing with ugly stuff. At least the dog wasn’t drooling.

In a fit of curiosity I typed in my daughter’s address in Philadelphia. She is newly pregnant and I was curious. Not expecting much I sat back in my chair sipping tea. The web server took a little longer than usual to connect and then I saw a map with lots of squares. Each one marked a different item. One color indicated schools, another logged predators. To my shock/ horror, there were over fifteen men within a five mile radius who had been arrested for rape, child molestation, indecent exposure and other crimes. I ran to my gun closet to get out the AK47 and Glock. Whoops. They were only in my book. I had no real weapon with which I could protect her from these perps.

Half an hour later, I found myself knee deep in print outs of these (mostly 40’s-50”s) amorphous grandfatherly types. What was I going to do with this information? Could I post it all over her home in case one of them appeared at the door delivering pizza? Could I set up cameras monitoring her front door? After an agonizing moment I realized there was nothing I could do. These people live among us and are maybe trying to rehabilitate themselves and maybe waiting for the next victim. There is no way to know or protect ourselves. Fiction is fun. This is reality. What would you do?


Joyce said...

Judith, the best way to protect yourself is to be aware that these offenders are everywhere. And not just sexual offenders, either. There are junkies, thieves--you name it--living in every neighborhood. No place can be completely safe.

Personally, I think some of these websites prey on peoples' paranoia. We get calls all the time from people browsing the Megan's Law website wanting to know why they weren't notified they had predators in their neighborhood. Some of the people listed on the site aren't child predators or their crimes aren't considered serious enough for the state police to notify the residents. People don't like to be told that.

I think there's a real possibility for people to take things into their own hands and go too far (which will be my story for book #3).

Sometimes I think there's too much information out there. I was much more content to live in ignorant bliss.

Nancy said...

At the zoo a couple of weeks ago, I found myself standing in front of the tiger exhibit, and a little girl asked why the daddy tiger was separated from the rest of the family. Her father immediately said the daddy tigers sometimes ate their babies. Which made every mother within earshot grab their kid and rush away, blathering some nonsense about daddy tigers not really eating babies, that man was just joking, etc, etc. But really--isn't the daddy tiger discussion important to have when a kid is young enough to grasp the concept that the world isn't necessarily a good place all the time?

My attitude? Start young. Be honest. Kids aren't stupid unless their parents are too protective.

Don't get me started on home schooling.

Mike said...

Judith--I second Joyce's comments fully. This era of too much information too easily disseminated and accessed--and too little analyzed--is a perfect recipe for a growth in confusion, fear, helplessness and anguish, so much of it unnecessary and harmful. And to echo Nancy's comments about shielding the young for the life ahead of them, check out this book review in today's New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/30/books/30kaku.html)--so sad and so insightful.

Mike said...

Whoops, the link didn't work. The article is about "Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life" by Allen Shawn, son of the famous editor William Shawn (and brother of actor/playwright Wallace Shawn).

Tory said...

I think you can spend you can spend your entire life protecting yourself and what happens? Then you haven't had any time to live it.

I'm all for taking reasonable precautions: locking doors, not giving stranger's private information, etc. But you need to look at what you're giving up through the protection. I always lock my car. I figure thieves will tend to gravitate towards the unlocked one on the street. But, realistically, my car has never been broken into and I've subjected myself to the stress of locking myself out of my car a dozen or so times in my life.

And if something bad happens? You go to a good therapist like me and get help recovering from it.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Knowledge is power but when it hinders you from living a normal life, it turns into paranoia.

I think it's important to protect our kids but not lie to them. Too much reality when a child is too young to understand it, however, can scare them to death. The trick is to find a happy medium.