More than three and a half years after it went on the books, it appears that -- finally -- Megan's Law is about to be fully implemented at the neighborhood level to protect children from sexual predators.
That's reassuring to parents who fear for the safety of their youngsters.
The law, which took effect Jan. 21, 1996, requires that after they are released from jail, sex offenders register periodically with local police agencies. It also allows police to notify "vulnerable populations" of their presence in the community.
While police have enforced the registration component, they have been reluctant to implement the notification option, saying that the legislation failed to provide guidelines on who specifically to notify and how to do it.
That will change soon, as it certainly should, thanks to the efforts of Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark and local police chiefs. Clark has prepared a detailed set of guidelines and the chiefs are fine-tuning notification procedures.
No agency is likely to go through a neighborhood door to door to let residents know that a child abuser or violent sex offender has moved in down the block. That would be virtually impossible in most cases.
But police will be alerting school districts, elementary schools, day-care centers, playgrounds, youth centers and perhaps block clubs or neighborhood associations that there is a convicted sex offender in their midst. In the cases of potentially high-risk repeaters, their names, photos and addresses can be made public. That should be a good start.
We hope that once school districts and other entities are made aware of individuals who may pose a danger to children, they will inform their constituencies about the situation.
And we suggest that police in other counties who have been reluctant to take advantage of the law's notification option might look to Erie County's law-enforcement community for guidance.