Computer Crime Research Center


7,000 Pa. sex crime offenders listed on state Web site

Date: January 25, 2005
By: Bill Toland

HARRISBURG -- Mount Washington is home to nine convicted sex crime offenders. Squirrel Hill has four. Butler County's Cranberry has seven. Greensburg has nearly 40.

If you're so inclined, you can jot down their names. You can see their faces. In some cases, you'll see where they work, or where they go to school, if they are enrolled in a college.

This information, for the first time, is at the fingertips of every Pennsylvanian with an Internet connection. The state's new Megan's Law Web site, administered by the Pennsylvania State Police, offers biographical information and a photograph for each of the state's roughly 7,000 registered sex crime offenders.

Previously, the state Megan's Law site offered information for just 60 of Pennsylvania's sexual offenders -- the ones labeled "sexually violent" -- and the data was available to the public only upon written request.

The site was badly in need of an update -- Pennsylvania's version of the law earned an "F" grade last year in a national survey -- and it received one after the state Legislature in November ordered the overhaul.

That Web overhaul came on the heels of a critical audit from then-Auditor General Robert P. Casey Jr., and it was completed in just two months. It ushers in a new era of accessibility for worried parents and interested neighbors, and at the same time further diminishes the probability that a sex offender -- even one who has paid his debt to society and has been rehabilitated -- can return to anonymity.

Critics say it's the electronic version of the scarlet letter. But courts have generally ruled that any potential infringement to a former convict's civil liberties is overruled by the public welfare, because studies show that sexual predators are more likely to repeat similar crimes than other criminals.

But the new site also raises the specter of vigilante justice. Could neighbors use the information to harass convicts now trying to rebuild their lives?

"I'm sure there have been examples of this in other states" that already maintain an online database, said state police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller.

That is why Miller cautioned Pennsylvanians that using the information on the site to harass freed convicts is a crime.

The Web site itself bears the warning: "Any person who uses the information [to] threaten, intimidate or harass the registrant or their family" would be subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability.

The vast database can be searched by ZIP code and hometown, or using the convict's last name or nickname, if you know the identity of a particular offender you're trying to track.

Anyone trying to log on in the next few days can expect logjam, as curious users flood the new site with queries. Gov. Ed Rendell, who unveiled the site yesterday along with Miller and Treasurer Casey, said California's Megan's Law site received 3 million visitors the day it was unveiled.

Yesterday, the number of registered sex offenders living in Pennsylvania was tabulated at 6,981. That number ebbs and flows, as men and women move into and out of the state, or are removed from the list.

The majority of Megan's Law registrants will be on the list for 10 years. Violent predators remain on the list for life.

Megan's Law is named after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl killed in 1994 by a twice-convicted sex offender.

The purpose of the law is to notify residents when a convicted sex offender moves into a new neighborhood. The new Megan's Law Web site can be viewed at

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2010-07-13 00:00:45 - fuygkiuhguohiuygkuhiuuyhoijupoijuoiuhyiu kenneth
2010-06-18 20:52:51 - this website SUCKS asas
2010-04-26 19:39:55 - I would like to know if there are any sex... Amber Dowdy
2010-03-25 12:12:27 - there is a prson that wont to talkto me... Marion
2010-03-23 14:18:07 - wanted to no if there are in sex offenders... jennifer penderraph
2010-01-28 15:02:36 - I need to see if my daughter is with A... Shawna G
2009-12-24 23:40:48 - I would like information on norman aurther... david carpenter
2009-12-16 10:16:08 - dnbnsbnbfn donte
2009-12-12 02:04:11 - i would like to know if theres is any sex... jariel
2009-11-29 19:53:38 - i will like to get info. on sex ofender in... jose luis camacho
Total 839 comments
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