Like many folks in the community, we were not surprised by last week’s arrest of Gary Caughey, the convicted sex offender living among us for several months.
We were surprised by the lengths to which several citizens went to keep an eye on Caughey.
The group, led by Brookings parent Matt Quale, used e-mail and Internet social networking sites to keep track of Caughey’s whereabouts on a near daily basis. Quale went so far as to speak with Caughey on several occasions. “I like to hear things straight from the horse’s mouth,” Quale told the Pilot.
We can’t fault these citizens for taking a proactive approach to tracking a perceived potential threat to our community’s children. And while such actions sound extreme, they are not illegal – and unlike the vigilante acts (including murder) committed against sex offenders placed in their communities.
It wasn’t as if authorities had turned a blind eye to Caughey. Far from it. Curry County Sheriff John Bishop was adamant that Caughey wear a GPS tracker 24 hours a day. His probation officer met and interviewed Caughey two to three times a week. At the same time, the sheriff continued working on a plan to relocate Caughey to a county with better social services.
Caughey’s release to Curry County was a new experience for all of us. There are those who fervently believe that Caughey was not and will never be rehabilitated. There are a few who believe he wasn’t given a chance to redeem himself. Now that he’s been arrested for parole violation (for allegedly mailing letters to a minor in the Philippines), we will never know.
One thing we do know is, we have a sheriff committed to protecting citizens the best he can within the law; caring citizens who are ever-watchful; and a newspaper that duly, factually, notifies the community of potential threats.
And that is better than sex offender notifications, registries and the rumor mill any day.