BY KATE CONNOLLY
THE CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE
RICHMOND – Some of us may not know our neighbors as well as we would like, so we may make an effort to stop and have a quick conversation when we pass another dog walker or wave as a familiar face drives by while we're outside in the yard.
What about looking our neighbors up on the Internet, though?
Violent sex offenders are required to register on an online database operated by the Virginia State Police. Internet users can search the Web site for a list of those registered in their area, along with the offenders' addresses, photos and information about their convictions.
A recent search found that Franklin County is home to 35 registered sex offenders. A bill that is now in the House would prohibit those individuals from living within 1,000 feet of any primary, secondary or high school.
"Children should be able to enjoy their youth without having to worry about being violated," said Sen. Charles R. Hawkins, R-Chatham.
Franklin County Sheriff Quint Overton said his department has not had problems with sex offenders or complaints from residents regarding sex offenders in several years.
"We monitor these people pretty closely and keep an eye on what is going on though," he said.
Another proposed bill that is awaiting approval in the Senate Finance Committee would require all those who commit sex offenses after July 1, 2006 to register on the Web site; currently only violent sex offenders are required to register.
The bill includes other measures that make the punishments for some sex crimes more stringent. It is accompanied by multiple other bills in both the Senate and the House that are aiming to revamp legislation regarding sex crimes. For example, a bill that is currently under consideration in the House would allow anyone to request electronic notification from the State Police each time a new sex offender registers or reregisters.
The main Senate bill would require a mandatory minimum prison term of 25 years for certain sexual offenses against a child under 13 years old. Following imprisonment, those offenders would be required to undergo at least a three year probationary period that includes electronic GPS (Global Positioning System) monitoring.
Some proposed legislation would change the presumption of ineligibility for bail to the first time an individual is charged with certain grave sexual offenses, rather than the second charge, as the law stands right now.
Hawkins said that legislators want to send a message that says, "If you violate our laws and violate our citizens, you will pay with incarceration."