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Megan’s Law Website Discussed in Detail During Hearing in Susquehanna Township, Says Helm

During a public hearing at Susquehanna Township High School, the House Republican Policy Committee obtained testimony that revealed additional details about the shortcomings of Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law Internet Registry, said Rep. Sue Helm (R-Susquehanna Township).


“This website is a necessary tool for families to protect their children from sexual predators who may live in their neighborhood,” Helm said.  “Today’s hearing further lifted the veil on the problems that exist with the Internet Registry, which creates serious concerns for my colleagues and me in the House Republican Caucus.”


Megan’s Law was enacted in Pennsylvania in 1995 as a result of the brutal rape and murder of Megan Kanka in New Jersey in 1994.  Across the country, states took legislative action and passed laws targeting sexual offenders that required them to register their whereabouts, employers and other detailed information for the benefit of the public.


In 2006, Auditor General Jack Wagner conducted a special performance audit of Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law website, which faulted it for failing to provide the public basic information such as up-to-date photographs, offenses and street addresses of registered sex offenders.  The special report issued on June 22 this year was a follow-up of the 2006 audit to see how the website improved; it received an overall grade of a C minus.


During the hearing, members of the House Republican Policy Committee heard from Stephanie Maurer, deputy auditor general for Special Performance Audits; Helen Weigel, bureau director for Special Performance Audits; Lt. Douglas Grimes, commander, Megan’s Law Section, Pennsylvania State Police (PSP); and Diane Moyer, director of the Legal Department, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.


Maurer and Weigel reviewed the auditor general’s report, which highlighted the areas of serious concern, such as photos of offenders being grainy, unclear, blurry, too bright and of individuals with their eyes closed; the website failing to list all sexual offenses of each offender; and search functions not allowing variations in spelling or punctuation.


House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York) noted that in today’s digital age, blurry and unrecognizable photos with an individual’s eyes closed are unacceptable.  He further stated that Pennsylvania citizens expect state government to operate competently and anything less is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.


Grimes noted that the PSP has taken several steps to address the auditor general’s concerns, and continues to discuss and investigate further enhancements to the website.  Since March 2009, the PSP and the Office of Administration established a committee to conduct critical and comprehensive analysis of the existing sexual offender process, the Megan’s Law website and requirements of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.  To date, many changes and steps have been taken toward implementing changes, including some that have been recommended by the auditor general.


Helm and Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong) have introduced legislation, House Bill 1581, that would require the Megan’s Law website to be more user-friendly, contain up-to-date photographs and address information, permit searches within a specific geographical area and contain an e-mail subscription feature for the public to receive updates when sexual offenders move into a specified area.


In addition to Helm, Saylor and Oberlander, other House Republican members in attendance today were Reps. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill), John Payne (R-Dauphin), Mike Peifer (R-Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), Adam Harris (R-Juniata/Mifflin/Snyder), Curt Sonney (R-Erie), Dan Moul (R-Adams/Franklin), Mauree Gingrich (R-Lebanon) and John Evans (R-Erie/Crawford).


Rep. Susan C. Helm
104th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(717) 651-0100
(717) 787-1230

Contact:  Tim Eller

 (717) 260-6242

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