Convicted child molesters would have to wear satellite tracking bracelets for the rest of their lives under a six-point plan for new state legislation introduced yesterday by Mayor Martin O'Malley.
The mayor said his proposal -- which he will push for during the General Assembly's 2006 session -- seeks to improve the state's spotty monitoring of sexual predators and to better inform communities when such offenders move into their neighborhoods.
The mayor's proposal, released during a news conference yesterday morning, reflects the increased urgency placed on the issue by state leaders upset by recent revelations that as many as one in five of the addresses on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry are inaccurate. One of the faulty addresses belonged to Carl Preston Evans Jr. of Essex, who was charged this month with killing his 13-year-old stepdaughter and setting a fire to cover up the crime.
"This threat posed by sexual offenders, particularly those who harm children, ... requires us all to dig deep and raise the bar and raise our levels of activities so that we can protect parents and their kids," O'Malley said.
State Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., the mayor's father-in-law, said yesterday that he has found wide support from General Assembly leaders for his proposed legislation demanding lifetime supervision of violent sexual predators and a more active approach for notifying communities when offenders are about to be released into their midst.
Curran said he is thrilled that O'Malley supports the idea of satellite tracking of most child sex offenders, a policy that was recently made law in Florida by Gov. Jeb Bush. The law was named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old girl killed by a registered sex offender.
In addition, Del. Christopher B. Shank, a Washington County Republican, won passage of legislation in 2004 creating a task force to study tracking of all types of offenders, including sexual predators, by global positioning satellites.
State task force
The task force, which is headed by an appointee of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., is expected to announce its findings in December.
Ehrlich is scheduled to deliver Saturday the details of his comprehensive reform for the state registry and other state efforts to prevent sexual predators from striking again, said spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver.
It was clear yesterday that the topic could become a political issue between the likely candidates for governor. O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan are widely expected to run against each other in the Democratic primary for governor.
David Weaver, Duncan's spokesman, said yesterday that Montgomery County has a representative on the state task force, and that the mayor should be looking to work with both parties.
'We need to focus'
"Clearly, the state is failing in its responsibility to protect the public from sexual predators," Weaver said. "However, rather than political one-upmanship, we need to focus on getting the job done of actually protecting the public."
Stephen Kearney, an O'Malley spokesman, said that 1,700 of the state's 4,300 registered sex offenders are in Baltimore, and that 900 of those are child sex offenders. He questioned the effectiveness of a state task force that lacks representatives of the city Police Department or government.
The mayor's plan marked the third time this year that he has detailed a policy aimed at improving state agencies overseen by Ehrlich. The first, released in May, was a 10-point plan to improve the state juvenile justice system. The second was a June campaign speech criticizing Ehrlich's environmental policies.
But yesterday, striking a more nonpartisan tone, O'Malley -- an all-but-declared candidate for governor -- stopped short of directly blaming Ehrlich for the failures of the state registry and public notification policies.
"We all need to come together regardless of political party to get tougher on sexual offenders, particularly sexual predators that prey on unsuspecting children," the mayor said.
O'Malley's plan supports Curran's call for lifetime supervision by "ensuring there are enough specially trained parole and probation officers supervising sex offenders."
O'Malley said the city uses global positioning satellite technology to track its trash trucks, and that his CitiStat system keeps up-to-date information on thousands of service requests every day from citizens.
"Starting next month, the state of Florida is in essence going to be using this same sort of technology to track sex offenders," the mayor said. "Maryland should be next in using this technology to protect our children."
He said if the city can know where its trash trucks are at any time, the state should know if child sex offenders are hanging out at schools or playgrounds. The technology also would provide a history of the child sex offenders' movements. O'Malley said the technology would cost $4 a day for each offender -- about $6.3 million for the state per year.
Failing to register
The plan also calls for making it a felony when sex offenders fail to register an accurate address. Such a violation is now a misdemeanor under state law.
The city Police Department recently performed spot checks on 115 child sex offenders, according to Deputy Commissioner Marcus Brown. The police could not confirm the addresses of 20 of the offenders and are pursuing arrest warrants.
Other points of the mayor's plan call for improving communication between state and local agencies to help identify a sex offender's most recent address, and to give citizens easier access to the registry by allowing them to type in their addresses rather than ZIP codes or the names of sex offenders.