TRENTON – The state Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan bill Thursday that would give the Department of Human Services and county and municipal welfare agencies access to the state’s sex offender registry for use when placing homeless and displaced families into emergency shelters, including hotels and motels.
“It has been nearly 20 years since Megan Kanka was brutally murdered, and since then, we have made great strides to ensure the safety of New Jersey’s children from sexual predators,” said state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer.) “It is imperative for the continued protection of our kids that the legislation evolves to keep up when issues regarding the sex offender registry arise – such as the need to provide safe temporary housing. This bill will strengthen Megan’s Law by ensuring that agencies are not kept in the dark regarding which dangerous individuals are living where, so we can continue to provide safe living arrangements for New Jersey families.”
The South Jersey Times recently exposed an incident from late last year when a family was evacuated to a Motel 6 in Gibbstown after the Paulsboro train derailment and hazardous chemical spill. The family, including their 12 and 15 year old daughters, was unaware that a registered sex offender – a man who was convicted of sexual assault of a 13 year-old girl – was living in the motel. The bill’s sponsors note that as of Jan. 25, there were still roughly 1,500 families who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy living in hotels or motels.
Megan’s Law was passed in 1994, only one-month after the sexual assault and murder of seven-year-old Hamilton resident Megan Kanka by her neighbor, a repeat sex offender. The law requires sex offenders to register with local law enforcement and, depending upon the severity of their crime, to notify community members when moving into a new neighborhood.
The bill was passed by the General Assembly in December and now heads to the Governor.