Middle sees increase in those registered under Megan’s Law

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – More sex offenders are living in Middle Township than in recent years.

“We’ve hit a new high just about ever year,” Middle Township Police Chief Chris Leusner said. This year was 76.

Sixty-eight registered sex offenders currently live throughout the township, and 10 others have yet to be classified as low, moderate or high risk of committing a similar offense.

In 2011, there were as many as 67 registered sex offenders in 2011 in Middle, 66 the year before, and 64 in 2009, according to information from the police department.

“Each year we get further away from the year the law was enacted, the more Megan’s Law we’re going to have statewide,” Leusner said.

The longer Megan’s Law is in place, the more people will be registered under it, said Leusner.

Megan’s Law was passed by state legislature in 1994 after 7-year-old Megan Kanka of Mercer County was raped and killed in by a man who had been convicted twice before of sexual offenses. It became federal law in 1996.

It requires those convicted of sex crimes to register with police, and makes some information about those convicted of such crimes available to the public.

Police Det. Clint Stocker said offenders “come and go,” and that sex offenders are scattered throughout the township.

“I think another part that drives it for us is the parolees,” Leusner said.

Some people who leave prison have no place to stay, so they use housing vouchers to stay at motels in Middle Township and Wildwood, he said. That means more registered sex offenders could end up in the township, Leusner said.

Registered sex offenders are placed into three tiers, according to the state’s evaluation of the probability of them committing another sex offense. 

Of the 68 registered sex offenders living in Middle Township, 23 are classified with a low risk of committing a sexual offense an again and law enforcement is notified; 32 are at moderate risk, and law enforcement, schools, licensed daycare centers, summer camps and registered community organizations are notified; and three are high risk and people within one mile are informed by police.

Offenders in the first two tiers must register once a year, and those in the third must do so every 90 days, Leusner said.

Ten offenders are waiting to be assigned a tier as of Monday, Sept. 17, Stocker said.

But Middle Township has not faced problems with registered convicted sex offenders during the delay, he said.

“But I hear there are issues throughout the state with that,” Stocker said. “That there’s too much time goes by from the time they get out to the time they get tiered.”

Police have not had major issues this year with sex offenders living in the township, Stocker said. But they have in the past, Leusner said. For instance, some convicted offenders were not living at their registered address or not registering at all.

An objective in the police department’s 2011 annual report includes doing at least four random spot checks of registered sex offenders in the second and third tiers in Middle Township.

“We kind of have a zero tolerance toward any kind of games that they would try to play as far as not being where they are supposed to be and registering somewhere and being somewhere else,” he said. “And I think we have a reputation for that with these guys and girls.”

It’s a fourth-degree crime if a convicted sex offender doesn’t register for Megan’s Law.

For more information about Megan’s Law, see www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/megan.

For a list of convicted sex offenders, see www.nj.gov/njsp/info/reg_sexoffend.html.

The registered sex offender registry website provides the offender’s name, description, photograph, address, employment, school, vehicle description and license plate number and a short description of the offense.

People who use information from the registered sex offender registry to threaten, intimidate or harass registered sex offenders could face criminal prosecution or civil liability.

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