Sunday, May 20, 2018
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To brand a predator

IDENTIFYING web sites and law enforcement registries may not be enough to raise awareness in communities about the most egregious sex offenders in Ohio. To better alert the public that habitual sex offenders may be living and working in the vicinity, some state lawmakers want to require them to use special license plates on their cars.

Not a bad idea. If repeat DUI offenders must display distinct license plates on their vehicles whether they've harmed anyone or not, why shouldn't repeat sex offenders, including pedophiles, rapists, or sexual predators, be likewise identified? As one sexual abuse victim wrote, "These people cause great harm to their victims. Their victims are damaged for life."

Some would argue the current methods to identify and deter sex offenders have not significantly stopped children from being kidnapped, molested, and even murdered. While convicted sex offenders must register with the local sheriff's office before moving into a neighborhood, and web sites post more details about serious offenders, most citizens don't avail themselves of the information.

To make it easier for the public and police to identify and track serial sex offenders, lawmakers in Columbus are proposing a law that would force offenders to attach fluorescent-green license plates to their cars.

Even though sex offenders are already prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school, Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander said a distinctive license plate would provide citizens added insurance. "It will give Ohio families a great peace of mind knowing that their children will be able to recognize where the danger exists," he said.

Supporters of the bipartisan measure say society may be a little safer if children and adults alike can be taught to recognize the plates and stay away from vehicles that have them.

Opponents claim the plates could stigmatize those riding in the car, including an innocent spouse or children. Another legitimate concern: other motorists might be more inclined to harass or even threaten a sex offender than they would, say, a DUI driver with a special plate.

But protecting children should be the overriding concern of legislators, and if publicly identifying convicted sex offenders with special license plates furthers that goal, the greater good is served.

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