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San Diego Lawmaker Proposes Email Warnings About Sex Offenders

State and county leaders teamed up today to pitch legislation that would enable people to be told via e-mail when a registered sex offender moves nearby.

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, wrote AB 1022. The legislation would enable local governments to notify people to sign up to be notified by e-mail whenever a registered sex offender moves into the area.

Fletcher said the legislation would be an update to Megan's Law, federal legislation that passed in 1996 for notifying the public about registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods. San Diego County's sex offender registry is stored on the state's Megan's Law website.

That system is "reactive" because residents have to go to the website to seek out information, but the e-mail notifications would make the system "proactive," Fletcher said.

"This is the continuation of the evolution of providing more information to parents and utilizing the latest technology," he said.

Bill Horn, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he tried to set up a similar system in San Diego County last year, but he realized it was illegal. So Horn worked with Fletcher to create legislation that would change that.

"Residents shouldn't have to do any more than read their e-mails to get to know who's moving in and out of their neighborhoods," Horn said. "If I had my way, I'd have sent those e-mails out last year."

There are 4,000 registered sex offenders in San Diego County, and 2,800 would qualify for inclusion in e-mail notifications, Sheriff Bill Gore said.

Gore said the new law would keep residents from having to play "Where's Waldo?" by comparing old and new maps to find out if the addresses of sexual predators have changed.

"This is a logical progression of the intent of Megan's law," he said.

If approved, the e-mail notification system envisioned by county officials would cost about $2,500 a year and would be paid for via the sheriff's department, Gore said.

Fletcher said he hopes AB 1022 will pass by the end of the year. While the law would not provide complete protection against sexual predators, it would be an important step, he said.

"We live in a flawed world where no justice system and no piece of legislation can ensure the safety of our children," he said. "But we have the responsibility to do everything we can to protect them."

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