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Bill Would Make It Easier to Get Information About Local Sex Offenders

In wake of the John Burbine case, local lawmakers propose changes to the way sex offenders are registered.

If a new bill becomes law, you will be able to go to your local police station to find out who are the convicted sex offenders who live in your area.

The legislation would not only make additional information on Level 1 sex offenders available to the public, but also would automatically classify anyone convicted of a sex offense against a child as a Level 2 offender.

The legislation was filed by State Sen. Katherine Clark and State Rep. Paul Brodeur in response to the charges against John and Marian Burbine, both of Wakefield. John Burbine is facing 100 charges involving the sexual abuse of young children, while his wife is charged with multiple counts stemming from the illegal day care she operated.

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John Burbine was classified as a level 1 sex offender after a 1989 case involving several young children - and with that classification level was able to avoid detection even when a local mother tried to check into his background when her child was going to the former Waterfall Education Center in Wakefield. 

Earlier this month, the local lawmakers released the full details of their bill, which would allow sex offenders to be reclassified at a higher level under certain circumstances. It would also give the public access to information about Level 1 offenders.

State Rep. Donald Wong, whose district also includes part of Wakefield, is also among the sponsors. 

NEED FOR REFORM

This week, Clark and Brodeur joined Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith in a conference call to discuss the proposed legislation.

Chief Smith had previously told Patch that he had contacted local lawmakers requesting action on sex offender registration.

This week, he emphasized to local media that the current proposals focus on Level 1 offenders "who really should be looked at for whatever reason," but also with a regard for individuals' rights.

"Our goal is to enhance the system and make it better and hopefully protect children who can't protect themselves," said Smith, adding that "we're trying to add components that will make it easier for the public to access information but also be very, very cognizant of the rights of others." 

The legislation will also allow the public to look up someone they are considering for a babysitter or caretaker position, Clark said during the conference call.

Clark also explained during the call that the legislation is needed partly because a state court case last summer found existing laws do not actually provide for the reclassification of sex offenders in Massachusetts without a specific criminal conviction. Rep. Brodeur later clarified that this court case was not decided on constitutional grounds, but on the legislative interpretation of the current law. "

"We are still respecting that we have different levels of classification," Clark added. 

"Ultimately, what we want to do is create good information that under certain circumstances, the public can get at," said Brodeur. 

Looking ahead, Clark said she is "so pleased with the support of so many colleagues who reached out to us" on this legislation.

The bill is largely consistent with a separate bill offered earlier this month by Senate Republicans. Along with the general bipartisan support on this issue so far, Clark also noted that State Senate President Therese Murray has indicated the issue will be among her legislative priorities for the year.

As soon as the latest committee assignments are announced, Clark said that she will begin to aggressively seek a hearing date for the legislation.

Related stories:

  • At Least 1 Newton Child Among Victims of Alleged Sex Crimes at Wakefield Day Care
  • Burbine Pleads Not Guilty to 100 Counts of Child Sex Abuse
  • Terms Set For Home Confinement of Wife in Child Sex Abuse Case
  • Burbine Child Sex Abuse Trial Date Tentatively Set
Tod January 26, 2013 at 05:16 AM
Risk assessment is designed to determine those who are most likely to reoffend, regardless of the conviction. It allows law enforcement to prioritize their limited resources when enforcing sex offender laws. That way law enforcement can concentrate the majority of their efforts on violent sexual predators who are very likely to reoffend. John Burbine being one of the few exceptions, this system is a good one and keeps us safe from those who are most likely to be a harm to our families. Automatically assigning risk level based solely on the conviction circumvents this process and puts us more at risk by reallocating police resources away from violent predators and toward those who may or may not ever be a risk to the community. Feel good, knee-jerk, reactionary laws seldom accomplish enough to outweigh the damage done by them.

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