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The Daily Tar Heel

California Passes Sex Crime Bill

Starting in October, campus police will have the right to provide information about sex offenders to the public.

But N.C. officials are uncertain when the legislation will be adopted in the state.

The California bill, effective in 2002, is a follow-up to a federal law passed last October requiring all states to provide public universities in their state with information on sex offenders living in the area by 2003. A failure to pass such a law will mean a 10 percent loss in federal criminal state funding for those states.

Daniel Carter, senior vice president of Security On Campus Inc., a national nonprofit group dedicated to promoting federal and state legislation on reporting crimes, said California's passage of this bill is very significant.

"It is the first comprehensive law enacted," Carter said. "(The) intent is to give campus police officers an investigative tool that other police officers already have."

The U.S. Congress passed Megan's Law in 1994, which requires sex offenders to register with local police, although many states -- including California --already had versions of the law in existence. The new law extends the regulation to college campuses.

Beginning in October, campus police in California will have the right to make information about offenders available to the public through flyers and other outlets.

Carter said officials will only reveal information about the most serious offenders.

The greatest opposition to the bill comes from the American Civil Liberties Union. Both the Washington, D.C., and California offices of the ACLU could not be reached for comment.

Deborah Ross, executive director of the North Carolina division of the ACLU, said she is unaware when the N.C. General Assembly will take up the issue. "I haven't seen this bill introduced in North Carolina legislature this year," she said.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said there is already a state law requiring sex offenders to register with local police, and this information is available to the public.

"I don't understand the need for (the new law)," she said. "But if the campus police and student body supports it then we would look into it."

But Kinnaird expressed concern about how the law would affect offenders who want to move on with their lives. "One problem I would have with it is if you are a sexual offender and wanted to start over then this would be quite a barrier," she said.

Jeff McCracken, deputy director of the UNC Department of Public Safety, said nothing similar to California's regulation is in effect on the UNC campus.

McCracken added that he does not think his department would distribute pamphlets containing information for the public about sex offenders.

McCracken also pointed out that most sexual assaults on college campuses are committed by people the victim knows rather than by strangers.

But Carter said he supports the legislation and does not expect it to be misused. "I hope no one would abuse any of the information collected under this act ... or violate anyone's individual liberties."

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