Good Fences

I once heard a parole officer explain that the absolute best place for a registered sex offender to be living was in your neighborhood; that way you could be absolutely certain of what they were up to. Indeed, when said parole officer had a sex offender move into her community she baked him some cookies and paid him a visit. Her point was clear; I know who you are and I’ve got my eye on you.

According to this morning’s paper, some residence of Coker Hills in Chapel Hill are rattled that James Michael Walters – convicted in 1993 of the second-degree rape of a 13 year old – has decided to settle in their sub-division. Now if it were me, I’m not sure that I would be baking Mr. Walters some brownies, but I doubt I’d hang his picture on my door with the words “rapist” underneath (as one Coker resident has done).

The rules for sex offenders are that they need to be registered in a state database. If they move, they must give notice of their relocation, and bla, bla, bla… you get the picture. A search of my zip code tells me that there are 17 registered sex offenders living in my community . I suppose that’s good information, but I’m not exactly sure what I’m to do with it. Yes, recent events in Ohio and Florida certainly give me pause for the safety of my children, but John Couey was registered and that didn’t help Jessica Lunsford.

And then again, we’re not talking about a recidivist on the level of Couey. By all accounts James Michael Walters made a stupid mistake 12 years ago in fondling a child, and now wants to integrate back with society. If Coker residents continue to bang the drum in the fashion some are pursuing (banners and rhetoric don’t help) they may find themselves looking at harassment charges.

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