2013-07-25 / Local & State

PSP Hoping To Improve Megan’s Law Notification

By Dan Nephin

INTELLIGENCER

JOURNAL/LANCASTER NEW ERA

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania State Police are looking at how to improve notification of local police when a Megan’s Law offender fails to check in as required.

That’s what authorities say happened with Harold Leroy Herr, who was charged Wednesday with kidnapping a 5-year-old girl last week from Lancaster Township and sexually assaulting her.

Herr, 73, of Conestoga Township, was required to check in with authorities in person four times annually for his 1990 conviction for kidnapping and child rape.

He served 20 years – his maximum sentence – and was released in May 2010.

He apparently checked in as required until this spring.

He failed to check in during a 10-day period ending May 7, according to Southern Regional Police, who charged him Friday with the Megan’s Law violation.

By then, authorities were looking at Herr for the abduction.

“We make every effort to make notifications as expeditiously as possible and continually assess our operations for ways to improve efficiency and timeliness,” Maria Finn, a state police spokeswoman, said by email Thursday.

But there’s no time frame under Megan’s Law in which state police must notify local departments about a person failing to check in, she said.

The agency is looking into generating automated notifications, and would have to create a system to do so, Finn said by phone Thursday.

State police have been dealing with a notification backlog tied to the Adam Walsh Act, which required that some 12,500 Megan’s Law registrants in the state register with state police between Dec. 20 and March 20.

More than 850 letters have been sent out for Megan’s Law registrants who didn’t comply, Finn said.

“Tasks related with getting unregistered offenders on the public website were our first priority. We are at the point where we have navigated the backlog and are beginning to move on to other necessary tasks,” she said, adding that additional staff and overtime were used.

The agency is also dealing with a trooper shortage. It has 555 trooper vacancies, leaving it with 4,134 active troopers, Finn said.

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, who wrote the state’s Megan’s Law, said state police are good about notifications.

“I have a lot of sympathy for the state police because they’ve had a lot of responsibility dumped on them without an awful lot of money” to help, he said of the Adam Walsh Act requirement.

Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, also noted the backlog’s impact, calling the two-month period in which police weren’t notified about Herr a “perfect, worst-storm scenario.”

“ I think that’s what makes this situation unique. (State police) had an incredible backlog when the Adam Walsh registry went into full force,” she said.

Her group’s experience is that state police take notification very seriously, Houser said, noting PCAR regularly gets news accounts about a person being charged with failing to comply with Megan’s Law requirements.

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