Illinois sex offender law could remove some young offenders from registry -

Illinois sex offender law could remove some young offenders from registry

(KMOV) -- A proposed law could make big changes to the sex offender registry in Illinois.  Some offenders who made it on the list before could keep their names secret.  Supporters say the change will help police keep tabs on violent offenders, but police tell News 4, it could actually create more problems.

This so-called "Romeo and Juliet" legislation deals with relationships between teens at least 14 years old and their sexual partners -- no more than four years older.  Those offenders could appeal the ruling to register on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry, which would leave fewer people for police to track.  But some officers fear it might just lead to more problems.

There are nearly 25,000 registered sex offenders in Illinois.  As many as 700 are cases of "Romeo and Juliet."

Clint Wilson was 19 when he met his 15-year-old girlfriend.  He served jail time, was on probation and now must registered as a sex offender for 10 years for his illicit love affair.  Only now, it's no longer an affair; Clint married the girl and the couple has two kids together.  But he's still on the registry.

Now Tonia Maloney is a mom on a mission.  Her own son has a similar story as Clint's.

"Nobody will give him a job, and nobody wants him to live there," Maloney said.  She started an organization called "Illinois Voices" in hopes of prompting changes to the law.

Police say many times problems start when parents discover their child is having sex with an adult.

'It may not even be any type of corrersion, but the fact of the matter is a minor juvenile cannot consent," Sgt. Eric Zaber, Collinsville Police Department, said.

Even so, Maloney says the answer isn't locking up the older lover.

"By eliminating these types of relationships of consentual sex, the police can focus on the higher risk, possible repeat offenders," Maloney said.

Sveral Illinois police departments have only one officer assigned to track the city's sex offenders, or it becomes an added duty.  Sgt. Zaber said it takes "time and organization" to track them.

Maloney argues the registry could be streamlined by taking off non-violent offenders.  But law enforcement is worried about creating a slippery slope, that making concessions for one type of offender could lead to loopholes in the law.

"That's the bottom line," Sgt. Zaber said.  "We want to protect our kids."

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