The District will not meet a July 27 deadline to fall in line with a federal mandate designed to create a national sex offender registry, likely causing the city to lose $250,000 in grant money that it uses for crime prevention.
If the city continues not to act, it could stand to lose about $1 million from the feds over the next four years. Tuesday is the last chance before the deadline for the council to act on legislation introduced by the mayor in May that’s designed to bring the District into compliance with the five-year-old Adam Walsh Act. After Tuesday, the council won’t meet again to vote on legislation until mid-September.
At-large Councilman Phil Mendelson, who is handling the mayor’s bill as head of the public safety committee, told The Washington Examiner that he’s not rushing.
“We’ll continue to look at the legislation over the next couple of months,” Mendelson said. “We need to look beyond the deadline and at what’s the right policy.”
The District won’t likely be the only jurisdiction not to meet the deadline for the controversial federal requirements, which include tracking for at least 25 years on a nonpublic sex offender registry youths as young as 14 who are convicted of violent rapes. Only seven states are in compliance with the act, although many — including Virginia — are working closely with federal officials to meet the deadline. Some states, such as Maryland, aren’t interested in changing how they handle juvenile sex offenders.
There’s also the issue of cost.
Earlier this month, the District’s chief financial officer determined that implementing the legislation would cost more than $700,000 in the first year, and $78,000 for every year that follows.
The city’s “funds are not sufficient” to make the legislation a reality, the CFO wrote to the council. The CFO’s assessment also confirmed the city would lose the federal grant money, which in the past has been doled out to groups such as the gang-fighting nonprofit group Peaceoholics.
Beyond the cash, there’s also the potential cost of having sex offender laws that are less rigourous than other states, police union chief Kris Baumann said.
“It’s a small price to pay for us not to become a haven for sex offenders,” Baumann said.
Mendelson said that won’t happen.
“My impression is that our current law is pretty good and this is about closing a few details,” Mendelson said.
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