Saturday, January 22, 2005

how many sex offenders does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

None. Sex offenders don't screw in lightbulbs, they screw in the stairwells of downtown SRO hotels, dark doorways, and alleys. Okay, that was a bad joke, but do you know how many sex offenders live in your neighborhood? During the first 96 hours after the Megan's Law database was launched o­n December 15, 2004, there were 14 million hits to the website, out of a total of o­nly 35 million people in California. Since I live in downtown Los Angeles and so many of my friends and family think I'm asking for trouble by living here, I thought I'd give the database a test spin to see who is in my neighborhood.

There are sixteen living in my building, and many that listed "Specific address not subject to disclosure" under the address column (three of whom I recognized from the neighborhood or my building), so there could be more. But in total, 168 offenders share the same zip code as mine.

I realize that much of this information could be dated. It is argued that many of these ex-cons committed illegal acts decades ago, purport to be reformed, and therefore should not be revealed at all. But when I'm riding in an elevator with two of them, that doesn't seem to matter as much. Another argument I've heard is that many of these offenders have cars and don't necessarily commit crimes in their neighborhoods, that they travel for such activities. But if they park their car in my garage or like me, sometimes get lazy and don't want to be so far from home, well...

It has also been suggested that offenders are more likely to re-offend under stressful conditions, such as when they are ridiculed or unable to find work. Have you been to my neighborhood lately? Lots of guys who are out of work hanging out. My roommate says he sees them sleeping on the subway. You could file that under the heading, "Stressful conditions". The guy who works the graveyard shift at the front desk tells me that my building averages three deaths a week, usually from someone who was just released from prison OD'ing, or fights over money, sex, and/or drugs. If I had a nickel for every time someone was thrown out of a window onto the street below, I'd have to visit a CoinStar.

So will this have any effect on the skyrocketing rents in my neighborhood? Doubt it. A few years ago, during the dot-com era, there was a website that would rate your neighborhood on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst, as far as crimes committed. I typed in my zip code and received a rating of 9, compared to say, 90210 and their rating of 3. I shared this info with all the cheesy westsiders who were moving to my 'hood, joining the neighborhood groups, and asking things like, "is there a recycling program down here?", or, "what can we do about the homeless problem, is there someone we should call if they continue to harass me for change?"

This won't cause me to move, I love my neighborhood. But I will definitely let the security guards in my building walk me to my front door when I come home late at night.

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