There are secrets among us

Sonali Kudva

At the time I write this, at least 11 bodies have been found in the house where Anthony Sowell lived. For those who have lived in a hole for the past few days and have no idea of whom I speak: Sowell is in the news for being the first serial killer Cleveland has seen in decades. He previously served time in prison for raping a 21-year old woman in 1989. He was refused parole and was in prison for 15 years.

This is where the sex-offender registry becomes very important. While it may be easy enough to know how many sex offenders live in your neighborhood, it is not as easy for the authorities to keep track of them.

When a sex-offender is released from prison, he or she has to check in every so often with the authorities, keeping them abreast of their movements and whereabouts. Some do; a lot don’t. Being understaffed and overworked, the authorities have no way of tracking those who leave with no forwarding address.

It is disturbing to learn that a registered sex offender – perhaps murderer – could live in a peaceful neighborhood where no one has any idea of the kind of life he concealed. How is it that no one kept tabs on a man who was in prison for 15 years?

The answer is simple. Authorities have no right to enter anybody’s private dwelling without a just cause. And this may be what the entire thing boils down to. If a convicted sex offender lives in an area, should he get the same rights to privacy as everyone else?

I do not believe so.

Convicted sex offenders, especially the more heinous ones, should not be allowed to forget what they have done. Their victims certainly can’t forget. Their families will never forget.

A big part of the reason why so many of these crimes go undetected is that the law is not stringent enough to supervise and monitor convicted felons after release. But is this an excuse for letting them roam free? Nope.

Here’s another point to ponder. Is the quest for personal space and privacy fostering the incidence of such criminals going undetected? Perhaps. It is certainly different today than it was 30 years ago, when you knew every neighbor and then some. Today we no longer have the same relationship with our neighbors. We no longer take the time to do so, and we’re too afraid of intruding and questioning too much.

Perhaps a measure that could work to detect cases like this earlier would be a combination of neighborhood watch and police supervision. The illusion of privacy could persist, while stringent monitoring is still practiced, and supervision of convicted sex offenders would take place far more effectively.

Sonali Kudva is a graduate journalism student and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].