According to recent statistics from California’s Megan’s Law sex offender locator database, 45 sex offenders live in Northridge.
Of the 45 sex offenders, six are located within a 3-mile radius of the campus, including several along Zelzah Avenue.
According to Christina Villalobos, community relations and crime preventions officer for the CSUN police, sex offenders who either enroll at CSUN or work more than 14 days with the university are required to register with the campus police and the Los Angeles Police Department.
“All convicted sexual offenders who are employed by the university, enrolled as a student, or working as a volunteer at CSUN must register within five working days of commencing enrollment or employment with the university,” Villalobos said.
According to the 2003 Crime on Campus Report produced by CSUN police, sexual assault, as defined by the California Education Code, includes, but is also not limited to, rape, forced sodomy, forced oral copulation, rape by a foreign object, sexual battery, and the threat of sexual assault.
Although Megan’s Law gives citizens information about sex offenders who live in close proximity to them, some residents said there are problems associated with the law.
“To my knowledge, there are no laws that disallow a registered sex offender from living near a school,” said Patricia Brummett, sociology professor at CSUN. “Although often times when a neighborhood finds out that there is a registered sex offender moving into their neighborhood, they protest and create problems for the offender.”
There were no records available to the public regarding the whereabouts of sex offenders until the California Legislature implemented Megan’s Law in August 2004.
“Many states and jurisdictions had policies to notify neighbors of (sexual) or violent offenders since the early 1990s,” said Brummett. “However, it was the brutal 1994 rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka that caused people to push for community notification of such offenders.”
All sex offenders are required by state law to register with local law enforcement agencies.
“Another problem is that 25 percent of sex offenders fail to register even though they are required by the state,” Brummett said. “Further, community notification can be broadly termed to mean police only, school districts, or in some cases to notify neighbors door to door.”
There are precautions that all students can adhere to when walking around campus or living in the residence halls.
“It is important teach students about self-defense,” Brummett said. “Trust your instinct. Don’t walk alone at night if possible. There are many things we can do to protect ourselves.”
Still, many students said they didn’t know how many registered sex offenders are living around campus.
“Wow, I was not aware of that,” said Kelvin Kelly, an undecided sophomore, who has lived at the dorms for two semesters. “It’s good to know that there is information around just for people to be safe.”
CSUN police hosts orientation programs to inform students about sexual assault prevention.
“We tell them to be patient, and take certain precautions especially if they live in Student Housing,” Villalobos said. “We also have programs like the Matador Patrol and the (Rape Aggression Defense Program) classes to teach women about self-defense.”
Some students have already taken precautions around the university, especially students who have night classes.
“I noticed there are people with red vests that accompany people to their cars,” said Kimberly Stokes, junior biology major. “That’s a good idea, but for me I usually always walk with someone or have a cell phone on me just in case.”
Dan Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.