Mom Believes She Must Helicopter if Lowest-Level Sex Offenders Come Off Registry After 20 Years


Here in my state, something wildly fair is about to happen: People who have been on the Sex Offender Registry for 20 years, who GOT ON the list for a “Level 1” non-violent sex crime like going to a prostitute, “public lewdness,” or peeing in public, are finally going to be allowed to get off it.

This, of course, makes for a great news story, especially if you find a mom and interview her without explaining to her or the audience that “stranger danger” is the least likely danger her child will encounter, that the Sex Offender Registry is a Scarlet Letter making normal life almost impossible for anyone on it, and that Level fnfdrkftht
1 offenders are extremely unlikely to become rapists, because they were not rapists to begin with
. Legally, a Level 1 Offender has to have a “low risk of repeat offense.” And that’s even more true two decades later! But here’s the inexcusable way RochesterFirst played it:



Compare and contrast that story with the one below, from WHEC, that at least took the time to talk to a source who does NOT automatically hear “Sex Offender” and assume that no children will ever be safe as long as anyone with that label is allowed to live a normal life again:


Here’s what Sandy Rozek, communications director of Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc., has to say:

Of course people are protective of their children, but when they have the facts, they can make better choices. These are some of the facts. Research indicates that when a former offender has gone twenty years offense-free in the community, his risk of committing a sexual offense is no greater than someone who has never committed one. This shows rehabilitation at work. Isn’t that our goal?

The greatest risk to any child for this kind of abuse comes from those related or close to the child, not someone on the registry. Chief Phelan is being disingenuous portraying registration so benignly. [In the RochesterFirst story, local Police Chief Phelan says that registering is no big deal for the person on the registry.] Sex Offender registration is a death knell that inhibits rehabilitation. It prevents the reintegration of registrants into the community. They are shut out of job opportunities and often housing opportunities, and certainly the opportunity to earn the good will of society based on who they have become, because the well is poisoned by who they were 20 or more years ago.

How could this be better for public safety? Research shows it isn’t. Furthermore, it does not protect children from abuse; it creates misdirection that keeps the actual problem from being addressed.”

What’s more, the Economist writes that:

Human Rights Watch urges America to scale back its sex-offender registries. Those convicted of minor, non-violent offences should not be required to register, says [Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah] Tofte. Nor should juveniles. Sex offenders should be individually assessed, and only those judged likely to rape someone or abuse a child should be registered. Such decisions should be regularly reviewed and offenders who are rehabilitated (or who grow too old to reoffend) should be removed from the registry.

The idea that our kids are not safe unless we know the location of every person who ever committed a sex offense, no matter how minor, is new. It is a level of knowledge that, rather than reassuring parents, is making them more scared. They see dots on the map and assume their kids are not safe outside, unsupervised.  As a parent, my worry would be this: If my son sexts, streaks, or pees in public, the law might label him a sex offender for 20 years…and then decide that’s just not long enough. – L


You can't play outside, dear. There's a man three blocks away who once sent a sext!

You can’t play outside, dear. There’s a man three blocks away who went to a hooker in 1997! 


35 Responses to Mom Believes She Must Helicopter if Lowest-Level Sex Offenders Come Off Registry After 20 Years

  1. Dan November 27, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    I’m all for bawdy lines, but knowing the seriousness of this topic it’s hard to tell if the end of your first paragraph is a pun or not.

  2. BL November 27, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    I’m all in favor of kids flying helicopters – oh, that isn’t what this is about?

  3. Papilio November 27, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    Happy birthday anyway 🙂

    Aaargh… The sheer stupidity of all those folks in the first video is just annoying. No one who got drunk twenty yea ago and urinated in a park is now interested in grabbing your kid. Certainly not when she’s walking the dog.

    (Btw, am I the only one who couldn’t actually see the vids? I just got the audio and the very top of the second video, the rest was all white…)

  4. Barbara Gale November 27, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    I am opposed to any public registry. The sex offender registries have destroyed so many lives, all in the interest of protecting children. What about the children of those low risk registrants? Their lives have been destroyed because their parent cannot participate in their life – can’t go to their school, the park, sports activities. The risk this helicopter parent fears comes more likely from a family member than someone who twenty years ago streaked as a college prank, or had sex with his teenage girlfriend, when he was also a teenager. I would be more worried about drug dealers and users, thieves, or gang members, than I would be a sex offender whose offense is twenty years past. At some point in time, we have to stop punishing individuals for their mistakes. Give them a reasonable sentence, let them serve it, and then let them get back to their lives. There should be very few mistakes that you can never get past – for example, playing with a loaded gun or a hand grenade you found.None of the low level offenders would have received a LIFE SENTENCE for his or her crime, yet that is what you are seeking. Let them have a chance at a life. They have paid their dues, over and over again.

  5. Echo November 27, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    excellent article! there are so very many people on the registry that do not belong listed. what they are made to suffer is ‘inhumane’!!!

  6. Warren November 27, 2015 at 11:41 am #

    These people should never have been on the list to begin with.

  7. John November 27, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    You know, the problem is even IF these people were explained the facts that a person who urinated or streaked in public 20 years ago is not remotely a danger to their children OR that stranger danger is extremely rare, they STILL would be too stubborn to believe otherwise! To them, the term “sex offender” equates to danger around their children and no matter how many facts are explained to them that would prove otherwise, many of these mothers will refuse to be convinced. This is exactly why the “protect the children against sex predators” platform gets many public officials elected and re-elected.

  8. Reziac November 27, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    Yeah, I get blank space and “loading the player” despite that I just updated my browser (with great reluctance, and only because in the past two days CSS stopped working just about everywhere with my older preferred browser). I don’t let 3rd party javascript run, tho, unless I know it’s not an ad site, which might be the issue.

  9. Reziac November 27, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    I would be so tempted to explain by the example of unzipping and peeing on the nearest bush, then explaining that this just made me a “sex offender”. Except that it probably would make me one indeed.

    Well, I suppose I could demonstrate using the dog…

  10. Mark Davis November 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Argh – so many falsehoods presented as facts and left completely unchallenged – 21st-century journalism at its finest!

    “I don’t see where we’re harming them in any way by simply keeping them on the registry”

    “Our world has changed”

    “We owe it to our community… to keep kids safe at all costs”

    No. No (well, not the way you’re implying). And no – not “at all costs”, especially when you don’t even acknowledge the true extent of those costs on society, and “your community”.

  11. John November 27, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    Quote from Ann Potter from the Child Advocacy Center:

    “In our world, it’s kids and I think we owe it to our community just at large to keep kids safe at all costs,”

    My head just wants to explode every time I hear somebody say that! To “keep kids safe AT ALL COSTS”?? So what does she mean by “all costs”? Sounds like more typical American over reaction to me. Do we NEVER allow our children to go outside? Because anytime they step outside the door, their risk of injury or death increases. “At all costs” would mean keeping them shut-in. What about the proud father I saw on youtube the other day who really values physical fitness and took a video of his two boys, ages 9 and 11, working out in the gym and doing a bunch of pull-ups and then asking his younger boy to proudly “flex his muscles for the youtube community” which the kid did with a big smile on his face. So do we put the dad in jail for child endangerment and turn his whole life and his family upside down because .001 percent of the population just might get aroused at seeing a 9-year-old boy flex his arm muscle? I mean, how paranoid must we get and how far do we go with this “keeping kids safe at all costs” nonsense?

  12. Diana Green November 27, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    I live in this community. As you can see, our local TV News is polarized, like a lot of the country.
    WROC RochesterFirst News is not as nuanced as WHEC.

    Similarly, not all our public officials are like the ones interviewed by WROC. Chief Phelan stands in stark contrast to the Chief of Police in the Town of Brighton, where I live. Two years ago, I had in-depth discussions about the registry with our Chief, his Lieutenant in charge of sex offense crimes, and a beat officer. I found them well informed and interested in educating the public, not fanning the fears of the uninformed.

    Monroe County, New York, and the City of Rochester are good places to live and bring up kids. Please don’t let the ignorance of some tar us all with the same broad brush.

  13. theresa hall November 27, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    it was created for real sex offenders. not the horny teens or the guy who receive sexing. so people wouldn’t let their kids near dangerous people. but somewhere along the line it became possible for anyone to get the label. there are 20 kids out of school because this crazness

  14. fred schueler November 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    the “peeing in public” is what gets me – that’s not an offense, it’s a public service, diverting plant nutrients into terrestrial habitats and out of the sewage/treatment/streams system where they lead to eutrophication and the growth of toxic algae. Let’s have an “ecological offenders registry” and put everyone on it who, in areas of low to moderate human occupancy, pees into a toilet connected to a municipal sewage system!

  15. Curious November 27, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    Sexting is a Level One Offense now. Lots of kids sext. Sexting is about to be reclassified as a “violent sex offense” by the U.S. Department of Justice.
    100 kids in Colorado were recently busted in a sting for sending risqué selfies to schoolmates; some were only 12 years old. No one wants their kids to do this, but experts say as many as 10% of kids do it.
    They will be classified as Level Three sex offenders, on the Registry for Life. After jail time.
    “Protecting our kids AT ANY COST” will cost those kids dearly. Forever. Is it worth it? When the knife cuts both ways?

  16. Stephen November 27, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    How much do you want to bet that the parents of these kids that sext also wanted the registry before their baby got put on it.

  17. David (Dhewco) November 27, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    I think a part of the problem is they just can’t believe their brother, cousin, father, uncle, etc…is a threat. THEIR Uncle Bobby isn’t a creep. (sorry if your name is Bobby, first name that came to mind). It’s so much easier to think of protecting their child against that guy who peed in public. They think they’re doing something. All the facts in the world won’t change their mind.


  18. Donald November 27, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    I am sickened by Police Chief Phelan. This is political grandstanding. This is clearly stepping on others to enhance your career. I’m appalled that he believes that people that did a stupid thing such as pee in a parking lot should be punished for 20 years!

    Weren’t we just fighting in Afghanistan against radicals like that?

  19. Donald November 27, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    The language of ‘Legaleze’ is very confusing. It’s easy to write a bill which hides what it actually does. If politician Joe Blow want to improve his status, he’ll jump on whatever popular opinion he can such as ‘Tough on Sex Offenders’. It doesn’t matter if all the sensible sex offender law have already been passed. He can still propose an unsensible one. That’s because he can hide what it actually does. People will still vote for it.

    Very few people would have voted in favor of punishing people for 20 years that:
    Hired a prostitute
    Peed in a parking lot
    ‘Mooned’ another

    “How much do you want to bet that the parents of these kids that sext also wanted the registry before their baby got put on it.”

    I don’t think they knew what this law entailed.

  20. Dennis November 27, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    The entire registry system is contemptible and should be abolished and replaced with nothing!

  21. James Pollock November 27, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

    “The language of ‘Legaleze’ is very confusing.”

    Well, that’s because A) it’s written in English, which is very imprecise, and B) When you actually look at how things should be, it’s incredibly complicated. It turns out that nearly every rule has exceptions. And the exceptions have exceptions. And the exceptions to the exceptions…

  22. Free Jennifer November 27, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    Free Jennifer Fichter!

  23. Diana November 28, 2015 at 3:27 am #

    Donald is right. Parents like Mrs. Betts haven’t a clue what the law entails. That is why it is reprehensible that their public officials lie to them.
    Parents in Canon City Colorado found out the hard way about their kids ability to circumvent parental locks on phones. They learned all about ghost apps.
    They also found out that the local chief of police could not protect their kids from the “long arm of the law”.
    They learned that the law is not a “good law”. That it is a very bad law. Because it boomeranged on them and theirs, as bad laws often do.
    In ancient times, in discussing the law, the wise ones said, “It depends on whose ox is being gored”
    It would behoove us all to learn about this law, it’s origins in “tough on crime”, its intent, to lock up everyone who ever had sex outside of marriage, and the data regarding “reoffending” available today that was not available in 1995.
    At that time, an era of existential paranoia in this country, fear mongering was the political opiate of choice. We are so much more intelligent today and capable of much better choices

  24. sexhysteria November 28, 2015 at 4:52 am #

    Wouldn’t it be more useful to have a psychopath registry? I know a lot of CPS and other government employees who belong on it. If a psychopath behaves herself after 20 years on the registry, we could be generous and take her off it.

  25. Mike November 28, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    I think people generally believe two false assertions about sex offenders:

    1. Offend once, and you WILL offend again (rehab is not possible).
    2. Offend in one way, and you WILL offend in other ways (sex crimes are progressive).

    I also believe what we should have is a violent offender registry that is accessible ONLY by law enforcement. Violent offenses should include more than just violent sex offenses. Murder, assault, and crimes with guns (among others) should also be included.

    I am not sure how you educate the public when they don’t want to be educated. We could start by electing reasonable people to public offices, if there are any.

  26. Diana November 28, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Yes, Mike! I start every conversation, every contact, with a public official with these words:

    Otherwise, I know they are wasting my time.

  27. Dasy2k1 November 28, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    Personally although there are cases of stupidity here in the UK our register is much better, firstly it’s private it can only be accessed by the criminal justice system and the police, if you want to work in certain jobs or voluntary organisations (such as me being a cub leader) you have to fill our a request for a check….. You then get sent a certificate with any known past convictions and any registration on a number of systems (including the sex offenders registry) all that the organisation requesting the check see is no info or info disclosed. If the latter they then have to ask to see the certificate (you can refuse to show it but then you automatically won’t get the position) whether or not you are deemed suitable then depends on the organisation. There is 1 list that absolutely bans somone from working with children but it’s vary sparingly used (effectively restricted to violent paedophiles, and child murders (whether sexual or not)) most other offenses are based on risk assessment…..

    The actual sex offenders registry has comparatively few restrictions…. Offenders have to notify their local police force of their address and notify them if they travel somwhere else for more than a certain time and they are disqualified from possessing firearms they are usually also obliged to attend some form of rehabilitation (firearm ban is not really a problem here as very few people do anyway and the only types you can own are long guns and shotguns )

    Most minor sex offenses will result in a 5 year registration as a sex offender…. urinating in public isn’t usually classed as a sex offence anyway, people who do that are more likely to get a fine for being drunk and disorderly that is about as serious as a speeding ticket (ie if you pay it on time it goes away and providing you don’t repeat the offense nothing more happens) you actually have to act in a way to intend to cause harassment alarm or distress to get charged with indecent exposure which is a sex offense (a minor one)

    To actually be required to register for life would only normally be passed down with a lengthy prison sentence for violent offenses such as forcible rape. 20 years registration would be handed down for crimes like sexual harassment or something like somone groping somone repeatedly after being told it wasn’t welcome

  28. JP Merzetti November 28, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Value-added unfortunates
    sort of like corn chips.
    Take a nickel’s worth of drunken relief in a back alleyway, and add a dollar’s worth of bureaucratic processing, and come up with a C-note worth of profit. Wall Street smiles.

    But what really bugs me is the holiness.
    I’m well aware of the crap any normal and sane kid can be exposed to, in the name of “culture”…..pop, or otherwise…but somehow, along the way, we got sanitized, sanctified and scared to death of a little “soil.”
    The muddy footprints on the floor just don’t add up.
    A little bit of wet-mopping sure beats blowing up the house.

    We don’t know the meaning of that term, anymore.

    Ms Helicopter can never earn the respect of my commentary.

  29. James Pollock November 28, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    “I think people generally believe two false assertions about sex offenders:

    1. Offend once, and you WILL offend again (rehab is not possible).
    2. Offend in one way, and you WILL offend in other ways (sex crimes are progressive).”

    I think both are based on a misunderstanding of facts, and the core problem is believing that anything is true of “sex offenders” as defined in the extremely broad terms of American jurisprudence.

    The first arises, I think, because pedophilia, specifically, is believed to be a sexual orientation that is not subject to change. (However, not all people who commit sex offenses against children are pedophiles, and not all pedophiles commit sex offenses against children.)

    The second results from the logic that affects many major crimes… the people who commit them don’t usually start with the more serious crimes, the commit smaller crimes, and work their way up. But… that doesn’t work the other way, while it IS true that most people who commit major crimes previously committed minor crimes, it is not at all true that most people who commit minor crimes will go on to commit major ones.

  30. Liz November 28, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    Happy Belated Birthday Lenore! My son says hi, and his first birthday was awesome!
    Oh news spin, how the first video was full of it. These people aren’t real threats to kids. This is just another example of how toothless the sex offender registry really is- these people should have never been on it in the first place!

  31. A Dad November 30, 2015 at 10:19 am #

    A story about peeing in public…

    I visited the Czech Republic with a friend during a wine festival in the early 1990s. During this time, anyone who put up some grapes for wine brought out the ‘new’ wine (which is the grape mash that had begun to ferment – low alcohol content but kinda tasty)
    There was a row of porta-potties setup against a rock wall on the edge of the the city square.
    The women were lined up for the porta-potties and the men were lined up along the wall.
    Nobody was offended.
    Nobody needed any trigger warnings.
    Nobody fainted from seeing a man (or hundreds of men) doing something normal.
    A city water truck came through in the evening and sprayed everything to clean up for the next day.

  32. AmyO November 30, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    I still don’t get how this is not cruel and unusual and is allowed under the Constitution.

  33. MichaelF December 1, 2015 at 9:24 am #

    “We owe it to our community… to keep kids safe at all costs”

    Safe from what? Imagined dangers and bogeymen? No. Never going to happen.
    Time to stop escaping from reality people.

  34. Neil M December 2, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    In the first video, the police chief’s words really knocked me for a loop. He argued that level 1 sex offenders “are still US citizens. They can still come and go, we just monitor them.” I wonder how many US citizens would be comfortable with state and local governments monitoring their movements. If lifetime monitoring is so harmless, perhaps this chief would like to volunteer for monitoring. After all, it’s a breeze, right?

  35. Curious December 3, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    Paranoia? Ignorance? Or Superstition?

    Too many zombie movies? Investing petty criminals with superpowers and dehumanizing them so the public can condemn them to a brutal future where mercy and justice need not apply…

    In the end it’s all the same.