Monday, April 28, 2008

Sex Offenders in Your Neighborhood

By Ashlee Monroe

If there were a registered sex offender living down the road from you, you would know, wouldn’t you?
“I was actually really surprised to see that, because I think I live in a neighborhood where I wouldn’t expect a sex offender to live,” said 18-year-old Athens resident Doug Chiki. A convicted rapist lives just doors away from him in this cozy residential area.
He and his family say they never got a community notification card telling them that a Tier III sex offender lives on their road, despite the fact that the person is supposed to register with the Athens County Sheriff’s Department every 90 days. Residents of the offender’s neighborhood were also supposed to get a card with a photograph and information about the offense.

Teresa Kirkendall of the Athens County Sheriff's Office talks about how community members can find out about sex offenders in their neighborhoods.
Teresa Kirkendall from the Athens County Sheriff’s Department says the new Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act has put sex offender notification and registration “in limbo.” She says Ohio is trying to be the first state to fully implement the new act, which includes categorizing sex offenders differently and making more offenders register with eSORN – the Electronic Sex Offender Registration Notification.
Kirkendall says there are three tiers of sex offenders under the new act: Tier I offenders must go to the Athens County Sheriff’s Department once a year for 15 years. Tier II offenders register every six months for 25 years, and Tier III offenders are meant to register every 90 days for the rest of their lives. Kirkendall says nearly all Tier III offenders carry a community notification order with their offense, which means that every time they move into a new neighborhood, their neighbors are supposed to get the notification postcard with the offender’s information.

Kirkendall talks about what sex offenders are required to do to notify the community of their records.
In popular movies and TV shows, we often see a sex offender going door to door and displaying a sign in his or her yard letting the neighborhood know of the offense, but Kirkendall says this is not the way it goes in the real world. She says unless the offender has a community notification order, residents have to go online to the eSORN network to find out if there is an offender in their area. To do this, the resident can either register with the sheriff’s department to be notified if a sex offender moves within one mile of his or her home, or search for offenders in their neighborhood.
There are currently 72 sex offenders registered with eSORN in Athens County, of whom 21 are in Athens itself.

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