When the Southborough Police Department announced the arrest of a registered sex offender on child pornography charges earlier this week, it came to light that the suspect lived on East Main Street in close proximity to one of the town’s preschools. Many of you have asked how that could happen when the town enacted a bylaw in 2008 to prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, day cares, and other facilities.
Chairman of the Board of Selectman John Rooney wondered the same thing, and along with his fellow selectmen, initiated an internal review of police department policies. In a comment on this blog, Rooney acknowledged mistakes were made when the sex offender registered with police, but said selectmen and the police department are committed to making sure it never happens again.
Rooney posted his comment on this thread, but I’ve reprinted it below in its entirety.
After being alerted to this situation through this indispensable medium, I began asking some of the same questions that have been posited on this site. As one of your elected leaders in Town, I am able to provide the following information.
Consistent with state law, this individual registered as a Level 2 Offender and notified our police department of his address within the thirty days required by statute. Under our Town by-law, this individual should have been prohibited from living within 1000 feet of any school, day-care center, park, recreational facility, or elderly housing facility. He was not and no excuse has any efficacy.
The information was taken from the individual manually by the police department. It was not entered into any database because the department does not have that technology. The manual information should have been evaluated with a map of our Town to determine if any of the safety zones were impacted. It was not.
We have immediately commenced a review of the internal policies of the police department. The Chief of Police has confirmed that all other registered sex offenders in Town are in compliance with the Town’s by-law. I have requested that the Chief of Police provide the Board of Selectmen with a process moving forward to guarantee to the Board and to the residents that such a thing will not happen in the future. I have also called for a complete report on the police department’s outdated technology and the costs associated with bringing that technology into compliance with contemporary police operations.
I can think of no higher priority than the protection of our Town’s children. While mistakes may happen, they should rarely be tolerated. This is especially the case when the resultant cost of such mistakes could be borne by our most prized possessions. Failure to enforce our Town’s sex offender by-law should be a “never event,” because it should be a preventable mistake that should never happen, such as operating on a wrong body part or giving an infant to the wrong person. And while it would be easy to adorn ourselves in Teflon suits and simply point the finger at the police department, I would caution against that simplistic viewpoint. The police department can only operate with the tools they are given, and we are all working together to make sure this type of thing never happens again.
I can guarantee the residents of Town that the Board of Selectmen will not let this issue rest until we are completely satisfied that such an event can never happen again. Your rage is our rage and the Board of Selectmen are committed to keeping everyone updated and I welcome the public’s input at every juncture.