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LAW ENFORCEMENT PROBES LOSS OF MEGAN'S LAW DATABASE.

Byline: Jason Kandel Staff Writer

LAPD Chief William Bratton met Monday with other police officials to discuss potential problems that could arise from the Legislature's failure to extend the Megan's Law database past Dec. 31.

The public database lists the state's 81,000 registered sex offenders and is available for public review at Los Angeles Police Department and county Sheriff's Department stations.

In his weekly staff meeting, Bratton asked Chief of Detectives James McMurray and Juvenile Division Capt. Sharyn Buck to report back to him about possible problems.

``We're already looking at what the impacts will be,'' said the chief's spokeswoman Mary Grady. ``We're going to figure out what we as a department can do.''

Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he was disappointed that lawmakers failed to pass Assembly Bill 1313, which would have extended Megan's Law through Jan. 1, 2007. He vowed to take the lead in convincing lawmakers to enact emergency legislation to provide public access to the Megan's Law system.

The failure of AB 1313, which garnered only 51 of the 54 votes needed to go into effect immediately, prohibits the public from accessing the Megan's Law database beginning Jan. 1.

Lawmakers killed the bill, citing weak public access provisions and problems with the registry.

The bill, by Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Bakersfield, also would have authorized college and university police to notify campus communities about registered sex offenders who go to class, live or work on community college, college or university campuses.

``This bill was crucial to allow the thousands of Californians who have used this valuable tool since 1996 to continue to obtain information that allows them to better protect their children and loved ones from dangerous sexual predators,'' Lockyer said in a statement.

``The Department of Justice has taken aggressive steps to ensure that information on 81,000 serious and high-risk sex offenders is the most accurate and up-to-date information possible, and we will continue to help local law enforcement agencies identify and track down sex offenders who fail to register with local police and sheriffs.''

Locally, police said they find that the database has been an invaluable tool for the public.

``I think that, when people move into a local neighborhood, they should have access to people they're living near,'' said Lt. Joe Eddy of the LAPD's Devonshire Division in Granada Hills.

It was unknown how the ruling would affect Los Angeles County's 24-hour public Web site, showing where nearly 21,300 registered sex offenders live, including 1,505 in the San Fernando Valley.

Los Angeles County spokeswoman Judy Hammond said the Web site would remain up until the state Legislature told the department to take it down.

The Web site, www.lacounty.info, was launched a year ago and shows the locations by blocks of serious and high-risk offenders and their proximity to schools and parks. The site is designed to work in conjunction with the Megan's Law database.

Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott, of the Family Crimes Bureau, said the Megan's Law database and the county Web site are critical.

``We'd be extremely upset if these databases go,'' he said. ``It's the public that feeds us information.''

Jason Kandel, (818) 713-3664

jason.kandel(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 16, 2003
Words:536
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