Sex offenders living in Waikato community drop
The number of convicted child sex offenders living in the Waikato is at its lowest point in six years.
As of September 30, 2016, 22 child sex offenders - where the sex offence was listed as their most serious offence - were living in the community. All are men.
In the 2012/13 year, there were 31, the most in the past six years.
"In terms of child sex offenders on our higher-tier prison release, there are about 750 people around the country," said Darius Fagan, Department of Corrections chief probation officer. "Then there is a smattering of people with less serious sex offending on some of the lower-tier sentences and orders that have been handed down by the courts."
Last year, the Child Protection Act 2016 was initiated on October 14. Among other things, it set up a register to track child sex offenders living in the community.
It is hoped the register will help police and Corrections monitor offenders and keep children safe. The information on the register isn't available to the public.
Depending on the severity of the offence, a person can stay on the register for eight years, 15 years, or indefinitely.
There are no indefinite detention orders In the Waikato as of September 30, 2016. Eight of the 22 are being monitored for 15 years, and the rest for eight.
"New Zealand has got really effective child sex offender treatment programmes," Fagan said. "We've got two prison-based special treatment units: Kia Marama in the South Island at Rolleston Prison and Te Piriti at Auckland Prison.
"They are quite intensive programmes for child sex offenders and they've got quite good prospects in recidivism rates," Fagan said.
"The offending itself is very concerning, with the offenders often preying on vulnerable people. But the reoffending of those groups is quite low and if it does happen, it's quite a long time after the initial offending."
In some instances, Corrections will inform residents when a convicted sex offender is to be released into their community.
"We will talk to the community, neighbours, schools that might be in the area about people being released or have been released. Essentially, the goal is to raise the awareness so that if parents or schools haven't taken the opportunity to educate children, now is the time to do so."
Fagan acknowledges the stigma attached to child sex offending.
"You can't lock your kid away forever. The other thing with sex offending is that a very high percentage of offending occurs to a child by a person who is known to the child or family."
Because of that, it makes it more difficult to find them a place in the community, since family support is often lacking.
"We make sure that potential contact with victims or potential victims is lowered so we have to avoid areas where children are likely to congregate, such as schools.
"But if someone is travelling to employment, they may have to drive past a school. We can suggest different routes, but I think there is a difference between driving past a school and being near or loitering by a school.
"If anything, parks are a little more difficult to define - there are some parks which are very obviously designed for children, but there are other types of parks which are more recreational."
- Waikato Times