Gaping holes in sex-offender registry

The holes in Nevada's and the nation's sex-offender registries were exposed this week when a man convicted 20 years ago in California allegedly abducted a Fernley girl and fled to Mexico.

First and foremost, the system depends on the sex offender's cooperation to register with police wherever he lives.

Fernando Aguero, 47, had not done so. It's no wonder, then, that police and community members had no inkling of his record of a year in jail for lewd behavior with a child under age 14 in Los Angeles in 1985.

It is a crime, of course, for sex offenders not to register with police when they move. All that does, however, is mean one more charge can be added when the cops finally catch up with him.

But until a sex offender commits another crime, seldom is anyone actively looking for him. Aguero was nowhere on Nevada's radar. In fact, he can't be found on California's sex-offender registry either, even though California law has required registration for more than 50 years.

We doubt the mother of the missing 8-year-old girl had any clue to Aguero's past, and it's possible she wouldn't even if Aguero had registered with police. In Nevada, offenders are classified in three tiers. Only when a criminal is at the worst level - most likely to commit more crimes - are members of the public generally notified they have a sex offender living among them. And then it's only by ZIP code.

Unfortunately, the only way to track the nation's estimated 500,000 sex offenders is to assign a massive number of officers to investigate every one who isn't currently registered.

Just this month the U.S. Justice Department launched a federal sex-offender registry on the Internet, with 22 states (including Nevada) participating, to keep tabs on those who do register.

Eleven years ago this week, 7-year-old Megan Kanka was murdered in New Jersey by a convicted molester who had moved in across the street. It has taken far too long for so-called Megan's Laws to spread across the country, and still there are major gaps in the notification process.

At this point, we can only pray little Lydia Bethany-Rose Rupp will be returned unharmed.


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