In New York, as in most states, if you want to find out whether your neighbor is a convicted sex offender, you can log on to the state's sex offender registry.
But only information regarding "level 3" offenders — those considered by the courts to be the most likely to repeat their crimes — is available online. And that's not nearly enough, according to Chauncy Parker, head of the State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
"The level 1 offenders are determined to be at a lower risk than the level 3, but they're all a risk. They're all sex offenders. It's something the public has a right to know," Parker said.
Some information is publicly available, just not online and not in its entirety.
Megan’s Law (search) requires all 50 states to register sex offenders but leaves the details up to the individual states. The burden generally is on the offenders to register themselves and alert officials when they move. The sex offender registries (search) are available online and provide basic information about and photographs of those in the database.
To get information on level 1 or level 2 offenders in their neighborhoods, New Yorkers can call a state office — but they need the name of the offender, as well as an exact address, date of birth, driver's license number or a Social Security number. Local police stations can give information only on level 2 or 3 offenders — but they can reveal exact addresses only for level 3 offenders, and only the zip code for level 2 offenders.
Level 3 offenders can be searched for by name, county or zip code. A federal court judge's ruling, however, currently prohibits the release of information on the state Web site concerning sex offenders (search) who committed their crimes prior to Jan. 21, 1996, and were assigned a risk level prior to Jan. 1, 2000.
New York Gov. George Pataki (search) supports legislation passed in the Republican-controlled state Senate to include the lesser offenders on the Internet posting. Bills have been passed on at least two occasions, most recently in a bipartisan unanimous vote. But the Democrat-controlled state Assembly has yet to take up the legislation. A ranking Democrat told FOX News that's not unusual, and it's not something to rush into anyway.
"Putting sexual predators in levels 1, 2 and 3 on the Internet is fine, but it also takes away the notification process and posting of sexual predators in local precincts," said Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.
One convicted sex offender whose face will stay off the Web site is Michael Boxley (search). He's the former chief counsel to the New York State Assembly's leading Democrat. Boxley was found guilty of sexual misconduct a year ago and is listed as a level 1 offender. But Democrats deny they're protecting one of their own.
"It's irrelevant because he's been on the Internet already," Lentol said. "He's been on every page of every newspaper. Everybody's seen his face. So there is no protection for him. It's a non-issue."
Some local officials are trying to get more information out to their constituents regarding potential offenders, no matter how severe their crimes.
In Binghamton, N.Y., county lawmaker David Lindsey is arguing that it's not acceptable that only 6 percent of the city school district's 5,000 students have requested that notices warning of dangerous sex offenders be mailed to their homes. Lindsey's daughter, Cheri, was sexually assaulted and killed in 1984. He wants the district to mail sex offender notices to the parents of all students automatically, unless a parent specifically asks that the notices not be sent.
In Saratoga County, the board's Public Safety Committee Chairman, Philip Barrett, is setting up a task force to deal with ways to notify residents where offenders are living and what can be done to protect neighborhood children.
"I have two young boys, this is personal to me," Barrett, supervisor of the town of Clifton Park, told FOXNews.com. "It's like everything else — you break the law, you have a record and that record is public information. I see this as being the same thing. I want to know, as a parent, and I feel the residents of Saratoga County have a right to know. It's an incredibly scary proposition."
Barrett wants to bring in local sheriffs, district attorneys and others to determine how to legally provide more safety to areas where sex offenders reside.
"I just find that as we talk about this issue, there's a lot of questions that we as supervisors cannot answer," Barrett said. "The reason I took this step was to hopefully give recommendations to state officials as to how this process, the whole process of sex offenders and how information is disseminated, and how these people are dealt with … and to also find more efficient ways to get information to residents of Saratoga County."
Barrett said one item the task force likely will look at is Pataki's idea to include offenders of all levels on the state's registry.
"It would seem to me, if you were a level 3, you were probably a level 1 at some point. So if there's a natural progression in levels by these predators, why not nip it in the bud?" he asked.
"The mere presence of police vehicles in a particular area, the mere fact that people who break the law, no matter what it is … if they know we're watching and working on it, it's a deterrent. And I believe if we take a firm stand and get these questions answered, make information available — it will absolutely be a deterrent."
FOX News' Todd Connor and Liza Porteus contributed to this report.