How do we make Megan's Law really work? - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

How do we make Megan's Law really work?

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - Megan's Law may have been a start, but many parents are upset that it does not go far enough to protect kids from predators. A public forum in Escondido was underway Tuesday to talk about Megan's Law's problems and how to fix them.

Public outrage is intensifying over the perceived failure of legislation like Megan's Law to protect young lives such as Chelsea King's, allegedly murdered by convicted sex offender John Gardner.

Megan's Law requires the state to provide online access to a registry of sex offenders, alerting residents to where they live.

Despite seven violations, Gardner was already released from parole supervision when King was murdered. He'd registered in Lake Elsinore, although he was staying with his mother in Rancho Bernardo in the days leading up to his arrest.

A News 8 Investigation found the state's Megan's Law web site mapping out sex offenders' reported addresses to be a confusing sea of blue dots, showing hundreds of sex offenders with the same vague charge as Gardner's -- "committed a lewd act against a child" -- without explaining the circumstances or flagging the most violent offenders.

For that a courthouse records search is needed, but News 8's Jeff Zevely demonstrated that often yields no additional information. So what needs to be done?

"The number one thing that would help protect our children in this county is if the police could direct their attention like a laser beam on the highest risk offenders and not spend their time working on the medium- and low-risk offenders. That would be more productive," former district attorney Paul Pfingst said.

Pfingst acknowledges that the concern is if a low-risk ex-con reoffends, the justice system will be criticized for not focusing on them. John Gardner's lewd and lascivious act was violently beating and molesting a 13-year-old girl in 2000. Pfingst and others believe he should have been classified a high-risk offender.

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