EDITOR'S COLUMN: Our neighborhood sex offenders

If you look at the sex offender map the sheriff keeps, just about everyone in Island County has a neighborhood sex offender.

Our family had a sex offender in our neighborhood when our three girls were younger and prone to riding the school bus. Fortunately or unfortunately, we didn’t know the guy was a sex offender. He lived in a little cabin on Saratoga Road, about 100 feet from where the girls caught the school bus.

The guy wasn’t home much, but when he was in the yard we’d wave and say hello. Sometimes he’d be looking out the window when the girls walked to the bus stop, and he’d wave and they’d wave back. After all, he was just another friendly neighbor.

Then one day we were watching the TV news and a man with a familiar name had been arrested on the mainland for grabbing young girls and trying to pull them into his car. He didn’t get one because both of the potential abductees fought back, ran away and called the cops. His bad luck to go after feisty girls.

Well, the news that our neighborhood nice guy was a sex offender didn’t go over too well at out house. Turns out he’d had a record, but it wasn’t considered bad enough to warrant a public warning. So we’d unknowingly lived with a sex offender for a couple of years, thinking all the time he was Mr. Rogers.

Upon learning the truth, we were apoplectic that the guy had had so many chances to grab one of our girls as they waited for the school bus. In times like this, my wife reacts with appropriate horror, while I think of bad jokes, such as: Lucky for us the guy liked to do his shopping off the island.

That experience made me appreciate our present sheriff, who is liberal with his interpretation of who is a Level 3 sex offender and therefore worthy of public notification. Had we known about our particular sex offender, I’m sure the neighbors would have given him enough dirty looks that he would have stayed a much shorter time in his rented cabin. So the more you know about these guys the better.

One good thing about being a newspaper editor is that I can take the information from the sheriff and put it in a place everybody will see it, so others can be forewarned when a sex offender is headed to their neighborhood. And I include some details about the guy’s past offenses so parents will know exactly what they’re dealing with — even if those details are uncomfortable for all of us.

At our house, we learned that the only thing worse than living with a known sex offender in the neighborhood is living with an unknown sex offender in the neighborhood. The more you know, the safer your family will be.

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