Knowledge is power.

This is the guiding principle of all media – and of a good and safe citizenry.

That’s why we support Gov. Deval Patrick’s efforts to close the public safety loophole and make available the names of those registered as Level 1 sex offenders.

The Sex Offender Registry Board assigns people convicted or adjudicated of a sex offense to one of three classifications based on a review of 24 factors. The information available to the public about each offender, and how it can be obtained, depends on the classification.

The way the law stands now, anyone interested in learning if a Level 2 offender lives, works, or attends school in their community can make a trip to the local police station or contact the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board and they will get the names. Minimal information on Level 2 offenders is available on the SORB website.

As for Level 3 offenders, anyone can make the trip to their local police department and request information on offenders in their town or, far easier, go online to the SORB website and see names, photos and convictions of those listed. Access is easy.

But the law does not currently allow public access to the names, photos, crimes or even the number of Level 1 offenders in a given community. Only law enforcement is privy to that information. This needs to change.

While the SORB’s seven-member board does its due diligence – as determined by the legislation, it is not a perfect system. No one can accurately predict the actions of any individual, though the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics states “compared to non-sex offenders released from state prisons, released sex offenders were 4 times more likely to be rearrested for a sex crime.”

Such was the case with John Burbine of Wakefield who was indicted last year of raping and abusing 13 infants and toddlers in the care of his wife’s home daycare. The alleged assaults date back to 2010. He had previously been convicted in 1989 of indecent assault against a child and was designated a Level 1 sex offender. Tragically, the parents of those 13 babies had no way of knowing this.

And put away the notion that someone who urinates in public could be labeled a Level 1. Not so, says SORB spokesman Charles McDonald. Indecent exposure is not a registerable offense.

And this is the gaping hole in the current legislation. Determining an offender’s level – 1, 2 or 3 – is not based on the severity of the crime for which the individual is convicted, though that’s taken into consideration. It’s based on the criminal’s likelihood to re-offend. What that means is someone like Burbine, who was convicted of assaulting a child, could be labeled only a Level 1 sex offender and the public will never know of his crimes.

It’s important to remember that even if the law is changed to identify Level 1 sex offenders, the public would be only incrementally better off. Most sex assaults aren’t reported because of the nature of the crime, and when prosecuted, very few result in convictions. There are many more sexual offenders in the world than there are convictions.

But that doesn’t mean the public doesn’t deserve to have that information. Just ask the parents of those babies.