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How to Find if there are Sexual Offenders in your Neighborhood

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Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
10-March-2002 Sunday

This column on issues confronting renters and landlords is written by Counselor of Real Estate and Certified Property Manager Robert Griswold, host of Real Estate Today! with Robert Griswold (9 a.m. Saturdays on AM1130 - KSDO radio, or on the Internet at www.retodayradio.com), and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law firm representing landlords.

QUESTION: In light of the recent tragic abduction of Danielle van Dam in Sabre Springs, I was wondering how I can find out about registered sex offenders that may be in my neighborhood. I heard that there is a law that requires police to track the place of residence for all registered sex offenders, but I have no idea how I can get this information. Can you help me out?

ANSWER: Griswold: Almost every state has a version of Megan's Law, which requires certain convicted sexual offenders to register with local law enforcement. The local law enforcement then maintains a database on the whereabouts of the registered sex offenders, and if they have a population of greater than 200,000 they are required to make this information available to the public.

Megan's Law is named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton, N.J., who was raped and murdered in the summer of 1994 by a convicted child molester who was living in her neighborhood without her parents' knowledge. In 1996, this federal crime prevention law was passed, requiring the FBI to keep a national database of all persons convicted of sexual offenses against minors and violent sexual offenses against anyone.

Prison officials are required to inform convicted sex offenders of their legal obligation to register with state law enforcement authorities. The state agencies are required to inform local law enforcement and the FBI as to the registered addresses for each convicted sex offender. Local law enforcement agencies are then permitted to release the collected information as necessary to protect the public.

In San Diego County, there are essentially two ways to obtain information from the Megan's Law database. First, there is a statewide database that is available by calling (900) 448-3000 and you can ask about a specific individual.

However, the caller must be at least 18 years of age and have the complete name of the individual they are checking, plus one of the following:

o Date of birth.

o Exact street address.

o California driver license, personal identification number or Social Security number.

If you only know the subject's name, the caller will need to provide a physical description. The call costs $10 and you are allowed to inquire about two individuals per call.

The California Department of Justice office also has a mail-in request form available for organizations checking on six or more persons at one time. They can be reached at (916) 227-4199.

For residents of the city of San Diego, the San Diego Police Department business office has a walk-in service where you can request a database listing of all registered sex offenders sorted by ZIP code. This information is available at no cost and no appointment is necessary. However, there may be a wait due to recent increased interest. The San Diego Police Department business office is located at 1500 E St. in downtown San Diego. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or call (619) 531-1543.

For county residents outside the city of San Diego, the same information is available at no cost from the Sheriff's License and Registration unit at administrative offices located at 9621 Ridgehaven Court in Kearny Mesa. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, or call (858) 974- 2020 for more information.

Also, the same information is available on Tuesdays (by appointment only) at the Poway sheriff's office located at 13100 Bowron Road or call (858) 513-2855 for more information.

Residents in cities with their own local law enforcement agencies should contact the appropriate business office. A word of caution: Although registration is mandatory, often the addresses provided are not verified or the convicted sex offender may move and fail to re- register at his new address.

Also, the accuracy of this database can vary widely based on the age of the information. California requires property owners or managers to provide a disclosure statement to each tenant advising them of the availability of the Megan's Law database.

While landlords are only required to provide their tenants with a written Megan's Law disclosure, you may be asked about the presence of registered sex offenders in the area. If you are ever asked by a prospective renter about Megan's Law or the presence of a registered sex offender at or near your rental property, always answer honestly if you have specific information that has been verified through local law enforcement.

However, in most instances landlords will not have this information, nor are they legally required to gather it. Thus, a prudent landlord receiving any inquiries about Megan's law or any type of criminal activity will be sure to refer the prospect to local law enforcement and make a written and dated note for their file.


IF YOU'RE A TENANT OR LANDLORD, the authors stand ready to answer your questions in this column, although letters cannot be answered individually. Write them at: Rental Roundtable, Homes Section, San Diego Union-Tribune, P.O. Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191. Or you may e-mail them at rgriswold.sdut@retodayradio.com

Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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Robert Griswold and the Real Estate Today! radio show strongly support the intent and the letter of all federal and state fair housing laws.  As a reminder to all owners and managers of real estate, note that all real estate advertised is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise "any preference, limitation, discrimination because of race, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, sex, physical disability, or familial status, or  intention to make any such preference, limitation or discrimination." Additional state and/or local fair housing laws may also apply.  Be sure to inform all persons that all dwellings offered or advertised are on an equal opportunity basis.

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Revised and Updated - Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Robert S. Griswold, CRE, CPM, CCIM, PCAM, GRI, ARM
Griswold Corporate Center
Griswold Real Estate Management, Inc.
5703 Oberlin Drive, Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92121-1743
Phone: (858) 597-6100
Fax: (858) 597-6161

Email: rgriswold.ret@retodayradio.com

2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996 Robert S. Griswold.  All Rights Reserved.
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