Video: Protecting kids from sex offenders

updated 5/3/2005 4:28:32 PM ET 2005-05-03T20:28:32

Your e-mails have played such an important role in Scarborough Country's "Stopping the Predators" campaign.  But the campaign doesn't stop with the click of the remote.  The show is taking its campaign — and those e-mails — up to Capitol Hill. 

MSNBC-TV's Joe Scarborough talks with some fathers that, unfortunately, have experience confronting sex offenders: Mark Lunsford, Richard Kanka and Ed Smart. They give advice and call for united action from the federal government.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, right now, there are an estimated 400,000 registered sex offenders in this country, and, believe it or not, the authorities have lost track of as many as 100,000 of them.  That‘s 100,000, one in four, 100,000 missing.  And that‘s because, really, one of the big reasons that we started this campaign, because the rate of repeat offenses for these convicted criminals is high, dangerously high for our children. 

Now, we have got three immediate goals for this campaign.  And we want you to help us achieve the goals.  Number one, make Dru's Law the law of the land.  That would give any parent out there access to a national database of sex offenders to allow them and allow you to actually be able to see if there‘s a potential threat in your neighborhood or your backyard.

Two, we want Congress to designate $4 billion to track all sexual predators, because so many of them get out and then disappear, only to commit the same crime or worse.  We have got to get that money and be able to track all of these sex offenders, certainly the repeat sex offenders. 

And, third, let‘s increase the amount of time that these predators, once convicted, stay in jail.  Now, make no mistake about it.  There have to be harsh sentences for these heinous crimes.  In a few minutes, we are going to be joined by a courageous panel of parents who have dedicated themselves to fixing the broken system regarding child predators.

You know, those girls and so many like them are the reason why we are doing this, to honor them and to stop these crimes from happening to anybody else. 

With us now, Richard Kanka.  He, of course, is the father of Megan Kanka.  Mark Lunsford, the father of Jessica Lunsford.  And Ed Smart, Elizabeth Smart’s father. 

I want to start with you, if we could, Mark.  Of course, all of America followed the tragic case of Jessica.  It broke everybody‘s heart.  I have got to be honest with you.  As a father, I don‘t know how you keep one foot in front of the other, let alone go to Tallahassee and help make the sweeping changes that you have made there, and now you are storming Capitol Hill.  If you could tell the American people one thing tonight on what Congress needs to do, what is that? 

LUNSFORD: Protect our children a little better, make things a little tighter, get rid of these loopholes that these people are slipping there.  I mean, everything is different everywhere in every state.  Every state, you almost have different laws.  And we just need one law for sexual offenders in every state. 

SCARBOROUGH: Now, talk about the law that you helped pass in the state of Florida.  It toughened up a couple of different things for sexual predators. 

LUNSFORD: Well, it tightened things up on registration, on how they register. 
People that have sex offenders in their home, and they don‘t make them register, or they know they are not registered, they will be punished.  It just tightens everything up, Joe.  
SCARBOROUGH:  Richard, let me ask you.  Let me bring you in here, Richard. 
Obviously, you helped passed Megan’s Law.  But I understand that there are actually some loopholes, that, after 10 years, a lot of those people go off the list.  So, there will be even more sexual offenders in our society.  We won‘t be able to track them. 

RICHARD KANKA, FATHER OF MEGAN KANKA: Well, there is going to be a problem with that.  We find that a lot of the legislation that was passed years ago was for a 10-year registry.  But we are working right now with many of the local governments to extend those registrations to lifetime supervision. 

SCARBOROUGH:  As someone who has lost a beautiful daughter, that’s been through this pain, who is fighting to stop other parents from having to suffer how you have suffered, what is your top priority?  What is the one thing you think we as a nation need to do to stop this epidemic? 

KANKA:  What I think we need to do is create a national database for these sex offenders.  We also need to make a crime against a child a federal crime.  That way, it tightens the — it closes a lot of loopholes that these sexual predators fall through when it comes to specific state legislation. 

If we can keep this on a federal level, I think we can tighten this thing up a whole lot. 

SCARBOROUGH: Richard, I think that’s so critical.  I think we do need to federalize these crimes.  So many of them go across state lines. 

Ed Smart, let me talk to you about this.  Obviously, you are blessed.  Your daughter survived, but what a terrible time you went through and other parents go through.  What is the one thing that you would recommend, from all the time — I mean, you have stood in the Rose Garden with the president of the United States.  You have sat in the Oval Office.  You have talked to the top leaders of this country.  What is the number one thing that you want to tell the president and members of Congress tonight that they must do to stop this national epidemic? 

SMART:  You know, to me, I think that they have got to be supervised.  In Dru Sjodin’s case, he finished his full term, went out unsupervised.  In too many cases, they basically fall through the cracks.  And I agree with Mark and the others that we have got to basically know where they are.  And they need to be accountable for their actions.  We can‘t afford to have them living next to schools and next to areas where our children are at risk, whether they need to have a colony.

You have previously talked about castration.  I think that they need to be on the radar.  And, right now, there is a national sex offender registry with the FBI, NCIC, but about 30 percent are off that chart, whether it’s because of errors of entry, the information isn‘t complete, the fingerprints aren‘t complete.  There’s something there.

And it needs to be effective.  And, right now, it‘s just not effective.  So, I think the one thing I would ask for is that we know where they are, that there is actually some control out there on them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think that‘s absolutely critical.  So many people have said, Ed, if we track Martha Stewart, when we know where she is on a farm in Connecticut, we ought to be able to track these sex offenders.  And I will tell you what.  So many people out there have been so angered by all of these cases.  But, you know, I think the tipping point just may have been Jessica’s case.  I think, at that point, Americans said, enough is enough. 

And I will tell you what.  That‘s why so many of you are angry. 

That’s why we are taking this fight to Washington.  And thanks to you, we are getting organized.  The result of our e-mail campaign and the response from you has been overwhelming. 

And I want to go back, Mark Lunsford, to you, and ask, what should Americans do tonight to get organized?  What should they do to help you and your campaign in Washington, D.C., and help us in our campaign on Washington, D.C.? 

LUNSFORD: Well, there’s three bills, Joe, on, on that Web site.  It‘s a federal registration bill, Congressman Poe’s predator bills, Ginny Brown Waite‘s Jessica Lunsford Act, federal bill.  Read them.  If you like them, call your congressmen. 

I mean, we need to start getting real loud with these people.  And we need to quit letting them out of prison before they do their time.  Every one of them, they just keep doing it over and over again. 

SCARBOROUGH: Now, joining us once again is former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.  And also back with us, Andy Kahn.  He‘s the director of the Crime Victims Unit in Houston. 
Clint, this seems like such a big mountain to climb.  What is the first logical step? 

VAN ZANDT: Well, Joe, the first logical step, I think, is, we need some type of national database where anyone can go and find a name and background information and address of a sexual predator, either by searching your community, your street, your neighborhood, whatever it is. 

We don‘t need to go to separate databases.  You and I have talked.  And we have got a Web site,, where people can go and they can search every known state and local database, but they have to do it one at a time still.  You can‘t do it at one time.  We need to get information out there, Joe.  People have to be able to search and find these people, and children need to know that they don‘t have to be offended against, whether it‘s somebody in their family or an unknown predator.

So, it‘s going to be education and it‘s going to be getting the federal government behind something like this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And that certainly is.  That‘s our top goal, is getting that database nationwide, so every American can find out if there is a convicted sex offender in their neighborhood. 

Andy, the question to you is, you are on the ground.  You are fighting this locally in Houston day in and day out.  What do you need to make your job easier? 

ANDY KAHN, HOUSTON MAYOR‘S OFFICE:  Well, one thing that‘s really remarkable is the onus of reporting and changing their addresses falls upon convicted sex offender predators.  Nowhere else do you ever find where the responsibility for alerting law enforcement and others relies on the offender itself. 

When we rely on convicted sex offenders and molesters to be truthful, we are only asking for trouble.  When you realize, Joe, that 25 percent of the sex offenders in this country have failed to meet their requirements for registering, they fail to meet the requirements for parole and probation, you have over 131,000 sex offenders nationally who are either missing or are wanted.

SCARBOROUGH: That is that just outrageous, Andy. 

KAHN:  It is incredulous. 

SCARBOROUGH: So, what do you do?  You slap the ankle bracelet on them?

KAHN:  If you are serving your sentence in a community, and you have violated your conditions, we need to have zero tolerance, and we need to do what you started doing tonight.  And that is publicizing fugitive sex offenders as soon as we find out they are missing.
I mean, think about it. 

In Florida, the last two cases, particularly John Couey, he was a wanted fugitive sex offender.  Imagine what might have happened if we found out earlier that he was wanted, we publicized it, somebody saw him and we got him.  

Scarborough Country airs weeknights, 10 p.m. ET.  E-mail Joe at


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