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15 years later, sex offender notification process has improved


APPLETON, WI (WTAQ) - It’s been 15 years since Wisconsin legally recognized that the public has a right to know where convicted sex offenders are living.

And a process that was once marked by tense public meetings has evolved into a much calmer process in which the public can use the Internet to keep closer tabs on sex offenders in their neighborhoods.

Officials say there’s been a grudging acceptance by people to the idea that sex offenders have a right to live someplace after they’ve done their prison time.

When the notification law was first passed, residents who were about to become neighbors with sex offenders got into shouting matches with officials at meetings about the offenders’ placements.

But now, Appleton Police Sergeant Polly Olson tells the Post-Crescent that very few people attend such meetings – those attending have gotten a lot quieter – and the meetings are not even held in many cases.

Schools and neighborhoods get more targeted notifications nowadays, while residents use several state Web sites to stay informed. Also, Olson says law enforcement has adopted more effective strategies to keep an eye on sex offenders – and prevent them from offending again.