The recent case of sexual offender Phillip Garrido is a complicated one. Without question. Garrido was convicted of rape and kidnapping in the 1970s. He registered as a sexual offender with the state of California and then a decade later abducted 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard. He checked in with local authorities regularly. He followed all sexual offender guidelines. The man even wore a tracking device. So, how did he get away with harboring Jaycee in his backyard for 20 years?
I never felt compelled to check the sexual offender registry. However, that changed a month ago. Over dinner, a friend was describing some of her concerns as a single woman living in NYC. She told me she takes every precaution to ensure she lives a safe life, including perusing the Brooklyn sexual offender registry. Apparently, there are twenty sexual offenders within a three-block radius of her. After that dinner and out of curiosity, I checked the registry and there were, at least, three offenders on my street. Not on my block, per se, but close enough. I didn't do anything with the information, but I was shocked to see the number of rape, sodomy and kidnapping convictions. In truth, it was a bit disturbing to peruse the faces and details of men who violated children and women. And in my neighborhood, most of the offenders were black and Latino. Now that’s a whole other discussion.
I have never been interested in the notion of "stoning sinners" or castrating "sexual freaks", but the recent slip-up with Garrido has brought up a surprising question for me. Are communities eternally defenseless against offenders? If tracking devices and sexual registers don't subdue their impulses then what will? Therapy? An island of their own? Of course not every offender is out there waiting for the next opportunity to violate, but what about those who are waiting. Could aggressive monitoring help? You know, setting up cameras in their homes and keeping an eye on internet activity. I don’t know. Unless Obama forces a national surveillance policy where microchips are planted under the skin and surveillance cameras are set up on every street corner [like in London] then, well, the whims of sexual offenders may be very difficult to curb or detect.
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.