Vermont fields requests to take its registry down

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – The weekend shooting deaths of two men on Maine’s sex offender registry are prompting calls for Vermont’s online system to be taken down.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s state chapter argues that the online registry could lead to a similar situation.

“This is a stark reminder that there’s no evidence that online sex offender registries increase public safety,” said Allen Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont ACLU. “In fact, they might just do the opposite.”

Maine’s online registry was taken down after two people listed on it – Joseph L. Gray, 57, and William Elliott, 24 – were shot and killed over the weekend. The suspect, Stephen Marshall of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, died Sunday on a bus entering Boston after shooting himself.

Maine officials say Marshall looked up the victims on the state’s online sex offender registry. With that in mind, Gilbert said the incident should make Vermont policy-makers slow down a plan to expand their list.

“They should not be making any changes to the online registry unless they can determine that, indeed, the registry increases public safety,” Gilbert said. “We think they never should have created it. They should just pull it immediately.”

State officials said they were not prepared to discontinue the list, especially with so many issues still to be resolved in Maine.

“Our view is that this is an isolated incident and the value of the registry to parents and communities outweighs the impact of one isolated incident,” said Jason Gibbs, Gov. Jim Douglas’ spokesman.

The Senate has approved a bill that proposes to expand what offenses would qualify for inclusion on the list and that would make it easier to put information about offenders on the registry.

The list currently includes information about those convicted of sex crimes who are judged to be likely to commit a crime again.

Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in the wake of the Maine shootings that he might reconsider a provision of the Senate bill that would allow law enforcement to hand out offenders’ street addresses.

“You never anticipate anything that tragic happening,” Sears said of the Maine killings. “We discussed our concern over vigilantism, and that’s part of the reason we don’t put addresses on our online registry. Something like this really gives me pause about even allowing police agencies to release specific addresses.”

A conference committee is expected to begin meeting this week to negotiate differences between the Senate’s crime bill and one passed this winter by the House.



Information from: Rutland Herald, http://www.rutlandherald.com/



Information from: Rutland Herald, http://www.rutlandherald.com/

AP-ES-04-18-06 0921EDT

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