Tracking sex offenders an arduous task

Technology helping law enforcement, citizens keep up with their whereabouts.
Dec. 22, 2013 @ 08:22 AM

Seeing who is on the N.C. Sex Offender Registry only gets easier. The registry recently released an app for Android smarphones, and there has been an iPhone app since January 2012.

Users open the app, enter their location or that of a business or school, and all sex offenders who are registered as living nearby show up -- their addresses and profile information, including the type of offenses, date of conviction, the amount of time they served. Users can also sign up for e-mail alerts that notify them when a registered sex offender moves in or out of the area.

But whether the information you see there at any given time accurately shows where sex offenders in your community live is another question.

As of November, 162 sex offenders were registered in Caldwell County. All are required to adhere to a laundry list of rules that govern where they can live, who they can see, and how they use the Internet. They must register in person at the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office and provide certified letters that the sheriff's office will mail to their address every six months, and they must verify their address within three business days from the time of delivery. The sheriff’s office is responsible for tracking their movements and making sure they comply with the rules, Lt. Aaron Barlowe said.

"In addition to the verification letters here at the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, we have implemented an additional verification that a deputy make a visit or spot check at the registered address to confirm that the offender is living at the registered address,"  he said.

Keeping up is an arduous task even when those on the registry fully cooperate.

And then on top of that are cases like Chad Beaver's.

In April 2000, Chad Beaver of Lenoir was convicted of indecent liberties with a minor. After he got out of prison in April 2004, Beaver was required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. As a registered sex offender, among other things Beaver was required to notify the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office of any change in his addresses or online identifiers such as emails and screen names.

In 2012, the sheriff's office was tipped off that a Facebook account was open in Beaver's name. Further investigation revealed Beaver had opened an e-mail account that he had not listed with the sheriff's office.

On Dec. 9 Beaver, as part of a plea agreement, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the sex offender registry, a Class F felony, and ordered to spend 18 to 37 months under house arrest and two years of supervised probation.

Beaver's failure to comply at least did not include moving to a new address without notifying the authorities, or moving away entirely.

There are myriad ways that people on the registry can run afoul of the law. Often, they are banned from using social networking sites such as Facebook, they cannot be employed as a manager or supervisor of minor, or they may be forbidden from being within 300 feet of a playground, school or areas where children normally gather. Failing to comply with these complex restrictions could be harsh -- most criminal charges connected to the sex offender registry are Class F felonies, including failing to notify the sheriff's office of a change of address or providing false registry information.

"We have had a lot of success with the prosecution of violations to the registry," Barlowe said. "We want to encourage everyone to search the registry and familiarize themselves with the sex offenders that live around them. We also encourage everyone to contact the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office if they become aware of a potential violation of the registry."

 

MORE INFORMATION

To view the complete N.C. Sex Offender Registry, visit www.ncdoj.gov. For more information about sex offenders in Caldwell County, contact the sheriff's office at 758-2324.

There are four separate classifications of sex offenders: Regular, recidivist, aggravated, and sexually violent predator. The regular offender is monitored through six-month address verification and spot checks, but the other classifications are sent address verifications every 90 days that they must bring in person to their local sheriff’s office. Some are also satellite-monitored, depending on their classification.

Recidivist offenders are those who have been convicted of more than offense. Aggravated offenders have been convicted of a forcible crime such as rape. Sexually violent predators have a diagnosed mental disorder and must be classified by the courts after evaluations are conducted as part of a court proceeding.