"I think this is going to be a typical response," Sheriff's Lt. Ron Wilkerson said of the turnout. "The public isn't nearly as concerned or interested in this as the media would like to believe."
A year ago, when the state Department of Justice released a book listing California's 1,600 highest-risk registered sex offenders by county, Wilkerson said a total of five residents showed up at sheriff's headquarters in Orange County to thumb through it.
"It can be a tool if you are worried about a particular person or you perceive a threat and want to see who someone really is," Wilkerson said. "I think most people will use it that way."
Police on Tuesday were hesitatingly implementing the other prong of Megan's Law, testing their ability to publicize the identities of sex offenders. Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies were finalizing fliers identifying their about 100 so-called "high risk" sex offenders--criminals with multiple violent sexual felony convictions--for display in stations and libraries. At the Norwalk sheriff's station and nearby city halls, fliers on five sex offenders were already up.
The fliers cannot be distributed until deputies have verified the information listed on the CD-ROM. Authorities are proceeding cautiously because the database is so inaccurate--the most recent estimate is that 40% of the state's offenders are dodging registration, many by changing addresses without notifying local police.
Long Beach police Tuesday reported that they still found dead and incarcerated sex offenders listed as living in their city--even though they had asked state officials to delete the names. In Norwalk, Sheriff's Capt. Marvin Dixon said there were still more than two dozen erroneous entries for his area.
As business hours neared their end Tuesday, some police were underwhelmed by the number of people using the databases.
"I didn't expect to be deluged, but I'm surprised we didn't have more traffic," Dixon said.
In San Francisco, only five people--including two reporters--had used the database by late afternoon.
Said San Francisco Police Lt. Tom Bruton: "Maybe people don't want to know."
Times staff writers Andrew Blankstein and Bonnie Hayes and correspondents Nick Green, Joseph Hanania and Scott Steepleton contributed to this report.