On Oct. 9, 1992, Debbie Mahoney of Tracy, Calif., read in her local newspaper that her former neighbor, an engineer convicted of molesting her 12-year-old son, had been released from prison.
Ordinarily, such information would not have been reported. But the article said that the man, Jonathan Tampico, had requested to be paroled to the state of Washington. Unlike California, police in Washington are allowed to disclose sex offenders' whereabouts. Mahoney read that neighbors there had forced him out and he would likely be returned to somewhere in California.
She wanted to alert parents of his new community that Tampico was living there, Mahoney said. But "because California has no public disclosure law, I was not able to find out" where he would be living.
So Mahoney formed Safeguarding Our Children-United Mothers (SOC-UM) and began lobbying for AB 2500, a bill signed last week by Gov. Pete Wilson that will give the public access to sex offenders' records through a 900 telephone number.
"I am not for vigilantism," Mahoney said. She said Tampico, a man she once considered a good friend, told the court that he tried to have a normal relationship with her son but could not control himself.
Tampico, a former engineer at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, was convicted of one count of felony child molestation and served 2 1/2 years of a six-year sentence. Police said Tampico was a member of NAMBLA (The North American Man-Boy Love Assn.), a group that advocates the rights of adults to have sex with children, and participated in a sophisticated international network of pedophiles.
Now on parole in Alameda County, Tampico did not answer requests placed through his parole officer for an interview.
"The problem with this is (that) their sexual orientation is to have a relationship with a child," Mahoney said. "To tell them they have to remain celibate without any kind of therapy, without any help at all, is asking a whole lot.
"We've got to give them counseling. At the same time, we've got to teach our children what to look for and protect them by public notification. That's the only way."
Next year, Tampico's name will be listed among 40,000 child molesters in the 900 number's data bank. The operator would not be allowed to disclose his whereabouts, but if anyone were to call and ask about him, they would learn about his conviction. The phone number would not have helped Mahoney's son, because Tampico had no previous record. Still, Mahoney said it is a "good start in protecting our children."
"I'd like a law similar to Washington's where the police department is allowed to notify the community that someone is in fact moving into their community," she said. "That is a true child's bill."