The 1994 murder of a 7-year-old New Jersey girl by a repeat sex offender that prompted what’s known as Megan’s Law has now gone international.

Beginning this month, United States passports of convicted pedophiles on a public registry are stamped with a notification identifying them as such. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-Hamilton, said that’s needed to prevent “country hopping” by people looking for an opportunity to abuse children.

“Americans on U.S. sex offender registries are routinely caught sexually abusing children in Asia, Central and South America, Europe – practically everywhere,” Smith said.

Smith calls the passport stamps “a second layer of protection” to prevent country hopping, in which convicted pedophiles mask their intentions when traveling abroad – appearing to travel to Japan, for example, only to redirect to Thailand, which has significant a forced sex trafficking problem.

“There will be people who game the system, just saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to’ name the country, but they’re really going to another,” Smith said. “When they get there they buy the ticket once they’re there and they’re back into the secrecy mode of abusing little children, renting a boy or a girl for a week or two.”

Following the murder of Megan Kanka in Hamilton in 1994, the initial Megan’s Law established a sex-offender registry and community notifications in New Jersey. That eventually became the law in all 50 states.

That in turn led to International Megan’s Law, which Smith first introduced in 2008. It passed the House of Representatives in 2010 and 2014, only to stall in the Senate, before finally becoming law in February 2016.

Megan’s father, Richard Kanka, said the overseas expansion is overdue but not the movement’s last step.

“We’re just going to keep expanding on it. Like I said, we got our foot in the door with New Jersey. The door opened up a little bit, and now we’ve gone worldwide,” Kanka said.

Kanka said he has ideas for next international advocacy steps that he’ll discuss with Smith.

“We got it on our end. Now we just have to work and get it the other way around, so we can watch in both ways,” Kanka said.

Smith said that as the special representative for human trafficking on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, he’s pushing 57 countries to adopt Megan’s Law of their own.

“What we want to do is get universality so that if they travel, we’re watching. And knowledge is power. We’ll be able to protect more kids.”

International Megan’s Law requires registered sex offenders to report foreign travel plans with at least three weeks’ notice and directs the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to give notice to foreign countries of a sex offender’s intent to visit. The latter notifications were already being conducted.

Other countries reciprocally tell the United States if sex offenders from abroad are traveling here, though Smith noted that not all countries cooperate or have public registries.

Even before the passport stamps, Smith said, Megan’s Law had blocked some 2,000 American sex offenders from traveling abroad and 100 offenders from other countries from entering the United States.

New Jersey State Police maintain a list of registered sex offenders in New Jersey communities. But it's important to understand what that information means — and what it doesn't. The following maps and listings, based on that data, were assembled by and include most New Jersey towns.

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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