U-T Editorial: A call to action
Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, and to too many others before them, is unacceptable.
But even as this community continues to grieve, the challenge now is to act — to mobilize behind a course of action to accomplish these goals:
• Better ways to spot potentially violent sexual offenders before they metastasize into real offenders; and better mental health treatment for all offenders.
• More effective laws to deal with sexual predators once convicted.
• More effective law enforcement policies and procedures for responding to attacks on children, in particular, and notifying communities about these attacks.
• More effective policies and procedures for probation officers in the sentencing process and in monitoring sexual offenders not sent to prison; and for parole officers in monitoring sex offender convicts once they are released from prison, as well as the process of deciding when convicts who violate parole are recommitted to prison.
• Better ways for families and neighborhoods to protect themselves.
We accept the challenge and offer our voice of leadership for the cause.
But what is it that must be done? What are the laws, policies and procedures that need to be enacted or changed? What other reforms are needed? Where do we start?
We start with the right questions. Then the right facts. The right solutions will emerge.
In addition to the thousands of column inches of news reporting on the Chelsea and Amber stories since Chelsea King went missing on Feb. 25, The San Diego Union-Tribune has published 10 editorials in the past 11 days dealing with various aspects of the two cases. These editorials have raised questions about the effectiveness of Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law, both enacted after earlier horrendous killings; questions about police procedures; and questions about the handling of the John Albert Gardner III case by probation and parole officers.
But questions are not answers. And as thoughtful as these editorials tried to be, it has become very clear very quickly that the issues involved are not simple ones.
Over the course of coming weeks, probably months, this newspaper’s editorial board will step out of the ivory tower in ways it has never done before. We will try to accomplish two things: to lead this community on a fact-finding mission about all the issues involved and, from those facts, build a recommended plan of action.
There are many stakeholders involved: law enforcement agencies, parents, victims, neighborhood watch groups, state and local lawmakers, judges, prosecutors and the defense bar, mental health experts and, certainly, the sexual predators themselves.
Our plan is to first ask the questions and develop the facts in community forums that we will sponsor to give voice to as many of the stakeholders and experts as we can gather, as well as the general public. We will seek the best expert testimony we can get in editorial board interviews and through special commentaries and columns. We will make as many as possible of these forums, interviews and commentaries accessible to the public online, and enable readers to interact and offer their own ideas.
We are not naive. We do not pretend — even should major reform be the result of this effort — that there will be no more tragic attacks or killings of children or young adults at the hands of sexual predators or other strangers in San Diego County or elsewhere in California.
We just know that we have to try, more aggressively than ever before. And we need your help. We hope you, too, will accept the challenge, participate in this effort and work to see it succeed.