Civil Rights

Not Our Fault

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Nevada's Public Safety Commission has set up a website that includes searchable maps of where the state's sex offenders live.  The city of Las Vegas then decided to set up its own site, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The problem is that both websites populate their databases with information from sex offenders themselves, people who, as you might imagine, aren't terribly vigilant about keeping their addresses up to date with state authorities.  This has led to neighbors harassing non-sex offenders who happened to have moved into residences formerly occupied by sex offenders. 

The city says it isn't to blame because . . . it includes a disclaimer on the website stating it shouldn't be used to harass or intimidate sex offenders. Pitchfork-toting crowds, city police say, should be aware of the fact that sex offenders supply the state with it's information, and that they 100 percent accurate. Sounds . . . dubious.

When 71-year-old Harry Berlin, a non-sex offender who's been mistakenly harassed and threatened by neighbors, asked city officials to correct their records they told him he had to ask the people who run the state database. When he went to the state, they told him to go back to the city. So now he's suing.  In the meantime, his neighbors will continue to periodically gather outside his door to taunt him.

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  1. “You’re a filthy sex offender!”

    “No I’m not! Where did you get that idea?”

    “From the intertubes!”

    What fun this guy must be having. However, think of the mentality of the person who goes to the sex offender website and looks for people in their area to harass.

  2. Does Harry Berlin have cause for a slander or libel action?

  3. If you don’t want to be thought of as a sex offender, don’t rent their former apartments. It’s as simple as that.

  4. Just think how much fun it would have been to have the intertubes in the 1950’s: To think how many people might have been labeled a commie or suspected commie and then left to the tender mercies of their nut-bar neighbors. During those paranoid witch-hunt days it would have been a sight to behold. Oh, as opposed to today’s witch-hunt days.

    Dan T.: Kidding right?

  5. Pitchfork-toting crowds,

    Ah. The cenematic Right to Keep and Bear Farm Implements.

    If you don’t want to be thought of as a sex offender, don’t rent their former apartments. It’s as simple as that.

    So do the apartment owners have a cause to sue over their now unrentable property?

    When 71-year-old Harry Berlin, a non-sex offender who’s been mistakenly harassed and threatened by neighbors, asked city officials to correct their records they told him he had to ask the people who run the state database. When he went to the state, they told him to go back to the city.

    This is the WTF part. You’d think that the db managers would be quick to correct errors. But nooooo. They’re from the government, and they’re here to help you.

    It’s really interesting what ads Google threw up as related to this article. I got three sex offender registry sites, one public records site, and “Photos of Cute Girls” from something called Mate1.com.

  6. Christ, what a way to spend your retirement. Reminds me of a quote I yanked from the Boulder LP site:

    “Complete and accurate surveillance as a means of control is probably a practical impossibility. What is much more likely is a loss of privacy and constant inconvenience as the wrong people gain access to information, as one wastes time convincing the inquisitors that one is in fact innocent, or as one struggles to untangle the errors of the errant machine.” – Victor Ferkiss, Technological Man: The Myth and the Reality, 1969

  7. It’s for the children.
    Wouldn’t be the first time that a 71 year-old turns out to be a molester. He doesn’t oppose that. Do you?

    I get ads by lawyers trolling for business. Damn it, why didn’t someone grope me when I was young and pretty? Too late now.

  8. Dan T.: Kidding right?

    No, trolling.

  9. “The city says it isn’t to blame because . . . it includes a disclaimer on the website stating it shouldn’t be used to harass or intimidate sex offenders.”

    If I were Harry Berlin, I’d set up a website with the names and home addresses of city officials. There would be a disclaimer, of course, stating that it shouldn’t be used to harass or intimidate them.

  10. This could be one hell of a real-estate scam for an entrepeneurial sex offender. First, scope a nice mansion. Then, list that as your residence. When the property values plummet, you step in and offer to take the worthless property off the poor owner’s hands. Now, you’re actually living where you reported you were, and you have 15 bedrooms and a swimming pool to boot!

  11. Oh, who could have ever forseen something like this happening? This was easier to predict than the drowning of New Orleans. Pandering, irresponsible idiots!

  12. As if I needed another reason not to move to Nevada.

    No, trolling.

    No, joking. And a fine one at that. (I don’t think that was Dan T.)

  13. Yeah, that was a clearly some sort of transcendent meta-Dan-T. Encapsulating the essence of Dan T (no, not in the Jack D. Ripper sapping-my-essence sort of way, you perv!) without having to muck about with worrying whether it really was “Dan T” in some epistemological sense.

  14. Pitchfork-toting crowds

    ***CUTE ALERT***

    I was talking with my 6-year-old nieces about vocab words the other day. Somehow, the word torch came up, to which my niece Rose said, “sometimes angry mobs have them.”

    Revolutionary in training!

  15. Dan T. | December 10, 2007, 9:53am | #

    If you don’t want to be thought of as a sex offender, don’t rent their former apartments. It’s as simple as that.

    This is a very good example of ignorance, both on the state and Dan T. This shows just how easy it is to be placed on the sex registry, guilty or not, and an uncaring bureaucratic government that cares less than little what happens to it’s citizens.

    To place an innocent in danger due to a misperceived and many times, false information, is a crime in itself. The misperception that all sex offenders are child molesters also shows how very little the public knows.

    It takes independent study to understand the truth of sex offenses and the recidivism rate from other than the mainstream media and your elected officials. This 71 year old man is placed in a position that makes him guilty when no offense has ever happened. Comments that one should not rent or buy an ex sex offenders residence has a very misguided note to it. But then, some people seems to enjoy the making of another’s misfortune a joke.

  16. It’s important that you don’t hold us accountable, because if you do, the sex offenders will win!

    Think of the children!

  17. Wouldn’t it be a more positive solution to have a database that lets you search for people who aren’t sex offenders?

    Besides, at the rate they’re adding new crimes to the sex offender list, it won’t be long before the non-sex-offender list will be shorter.

  18. In my ethics class a few years back, we had a guy who broke into his neighbor’s mailbox to look at his mail to confirm that the neighbor was a sex offender. When I suggested that that was, maybe, going a bit too far, almost everyone else in the class jumped all over me, telling me it was for the guy’s children’s safety and that I’d understand when I had children. My response was that I might understand the impulse, but I wouldn’t break the law and violate another person’s privacy to ensure it.

    But the guy turned out to actually be a sex offender, so the guy was totally justified in his actions. No, really.

  19. Speaking of sex, I notice that Reason has a new ad promoting bikini clad women. It’s not offensive though, so probably off topic…

  20. Brandybuck,

    Stop being crass. Besides, they’ve been running that ad for Napolitano’s book for weeks now.

  21. “But the guy turned out to actually be a sex offender, so the guy was totally justified in his actions. No, really.”

    Ummm… No. Not really. No one can come and sort through my private papers (and my mail in the box is mine and private) just to see if I might be this type of person or that type of person.

    There are many people who would gladly go through a neighbors mail to see what kind of a person they are but don’t bcse of a combination of law and custom. EG There are those out there who — listening to the shrill right-wing of talk radio — would feel justified going through your mail to see if your were a “liberal” . . .

    Trust me, my current neighbors (thank zeus I am leaving this place) would pour through my mail in a second if there were no potential ramification.

    And seriously: is it not possible that a “registered sex offender” might have been convicted as such wrongly or might be on the list for something but poses to threat to anyone.

    Sex offender lists are a form of double jeopardy.

  22. Ummm… No. Not really.

    This is why we need sarcasm tags online. I thought the “No, really” would effectively convey that I was being sarcastic. To be clear, that guy was not justified in violating someone else’s privacy.

  23. Then 71-year-old Harry Berlin, a non-sex offender who’s been mistakenly harassed and threatened by neighbors, asked city officials to correct their records they told him he had to ask the people who run the state database.

    Public sector IT admin people are as technically shallow as they are imperious. He will win, but he’ll be screwed in the wallet. He’ll need to hire both a lawyer and geek with creds to unravel that mess.

  24. I am a retired Police officer with over 25 years in Law Enforcement. Before I left L.E. I became very involved with sex offender laws. For the most part they are not doing what the public thinks they are doing. They are however costing us a lot of tax payer dollars and L.E. time. The fact of it is that over 90% of sexual assaults are commited by a person well known and trusted by the victim, with over 50% of those being a family member. As to sex offender laws, if those that we elect to office realy wanted to protect us from sex offenders they would make ALL of them pay for testing that would show how much of a danger they are to re-offend. Then only those at the highest risk to re-offend would be placed on a public sex offender registry. The US Dept. Of Justice who did one of the largest studies to date on the recidivism rate of sex offenders found that they are the lowest group of criminals to be re-convicted of anouther sex crime after release from prison. Only 3.5% of them are re-convicted within 3 years of release from prison. And that number goes down if treatment programs are in place at the prison and upon release from prison. Tim P.

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