July 27th, 2016

This article originally appeared in the New Jersey Herald, and was written by Joe Carlson. To view the original article, click here.


HARDYSTON – Starting Monday, guests of the Sussex County YMCA will have a state-issued ID or their membership card scanned before being granted access to the organization’s facilities.

The change in policy – beginning Aug. 1 – is an effort to safeguard children by screening for sex offenders, the YMCA announced.

“It is really to protect the children that we serve. It is a system that is weeding out sex offenders,” said Jennifer Gardner, the Sussex County YMCA executive director. “So if you are a sex offender, you will not be able to access our facilities.”

“We will scan every person over the age of 18,” Gardner added, of the Raptor System the YMCA will be utilizing.

According to the Raptor System’s website, the technology “instantly screens for registered sex offenders in all 50 states and can also screen for individuals with restraining orders, custody issues, suspended or expelled students, known gang members, or for any custom alert.”

Gardner said the database the system uses is updated constantly and that checks are already being done on members of the YMCA.

“We do not have a current member that we have to notify and say ‘sorry you cannot be a member here,'” Gardner said.

When guests to the YMCA enter the building, they will be asked to scan their membership card or state-issued identification, which will then be screened in the system.

“If you work in this building, are a board member, are our association staff or are delivering something in this building, everyone will be scanned,” Gardner said.

“No one is exempt from this. It goes across the board.”

Upon being given clearance, the guest will then get a badge with the visitor’s name, photo, date and time and destination.

If the person is not given clearance, an alert will be sent to management and if needed, law enforcement will be called.

The system was piloted in May at the West Essex YMCA, which has been successful, Gardner said.

Jim Barta, the director of security for the Vernon School District which has utilized the Raptor System since 2013, said the system works very well and doesn’t typically cause significant delays for people wishing to enter any of the district’s schools.

“The service is good. It’s a good product,” Barta said.

In the three years since the district began utilizing the system, there have not been any major issues, Barta said.

Gardner said in instances where a child is a member and has a swimming class, but the parent or guardian is not a member, guest cards will be issued for convenience.

An important thing to remember about the new policy, Gardner said, is that it is only screening for registered sex offenders.

“We don’t want people to worry about getting a traffic ticket or that they got in trouble when they were 18,” she said.

“It’s only scanning for registered sex offenders.”

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