Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Help Me Howard: Predators
A South Florida man typed in his address and thought it showed a child molester lived at his house. One of his neighbors even sent him a threatening letter. That has him calling Help Me Howard. Here's The Night Team's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- While millions of Americans live and love to shop in stores...
Moty Goldman: "I have an internet store."
Moty Goldman is catering to those who like to shop and click from home.
Moty Goldman: "I am selling motorcycle accessories. Leather Jackets, Leather Gloves."
Moty is very savvy with the internet, but a webpage has left him baffled.
Moty Goldman: "I was in shock. I didn't know what to do."
It started two weeks ago when Moty found an envelope in his mailbox.
Moty Goldman: "I received a letter in the mail. It said, 'Go away, Predator."
Moty is a happily married father of two. He had no idea why someone thought he was a sexual predator. Then he talked to a neighbor.
Moty Goldman: "He told me, 'I don't know if you know this, but, yes, he used to live here -- a predator, sexual offender.'"
Moty and his wife bought the home two years ago, but, to make sure the offender was no longer listed at his address, he went to FDLE's Sexual Offender webpage. The bad guy was there.
Then he went to Miami Dade's webpage -- under "My Neighborhood" -- and went to "Sexual Offenders."
Moty Goldman: "I put in my information. The address of the sexual offender predator was under Gorelick James, under my address."
Sure enough, under his address it seems to say a registered sexual offender lives there. Howard and I checked it, and we were fooled.
We contacted a Miami-Dade detective who also thought the webpage was showing a sexual offender lived at Moty's home.
We were intrigued -- Moty was irritated.
Moty Goldman: "I have two young kids of my own. One is two years old, my daughter, she is five, and I don't want to live in fear."
But, Moty says, the fact that someone else is convinced a sexual offender lives in his home, has him living in fear -- and now he is taking action.
Moty Goldman: "I am afraid. I carry a weapon with me inside the house. I carry it with me inside the house."
Patrick Fraser: "What are you afraid of?"
Moty Goldman: "I am afraid they are going to harm me. That they think I am the guy, and I am not."
Finally, we spoke to a lieutenant at Miami-Dade Police who pointed out we were not reading the webpage correctly...
That actually, it says a sexual offender lives within a half mile of Moty's home.
We now realize it, but Moty says the people who think an offender lives at his home may not.
Moty Goldman: "I am scared they are going to do something to my kids. You never know. People today, they are crazy."
But is Moty overreacting, or does he have a right to react this way? To find out, he called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Patrick, you and I were fooled by this. But, when you look carefully, it's perfectly legal because there is nothing inaccurate on this webpage. However, the fact that many people were misled -- leading someone to drop a threatening letter in Moty's mailbox -- makes it clear he has every reason to be concerned."
When I spoke to the county web experts, they were extremely nice.
I suggested they change the "1/2 square mile around a home" to "zero" and let the web-user go from there.
I was told they would pass it on and maybe make the change when they make future upgrades.
I was also told if any of you have any suggestions for changes to go to their webpage and contact them.
Howard says this is one change that the county needs to consider.
Howard Finkelstein: "If Miami-Dade chooses not to change the website, legally, I doubt they would be responsible if someone was hurt because someone misread this information. But, common sense tells you, this is volatile information and therefore it must be crystal clear."
Moty says he certainly agrees with that, but that the internet should not cause him problems and instead should be profitable.
Moty Goldman: "I am a power seller on eBay. I have a store on line. It's a very interesting business because you get to know a lot of people from all over the world."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, while in this case the webpage was entirely accurate, what happens if a government agency does make a mistake? Nothing, there is no civil liability."
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