July 1, 2013

Sex offender numbers rising

7-1-2013 Georgia:

Communities across the nation have made it clear they don't want registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods.

Their photographs, names, addresses and crimes are published in newspapers and online, which serves to warn residents of their whereabouts.

But there is little residents can do to prevent registered sex offenders from moving into a neighborhood if it's not a restricted area.

In Georgia, which has one of the strictest registration requirements in the nation, it's illegal for a registered sex offender convicted after July 1, 2008 to live within 1,000 feet of a child care facility, church, school, private park, recreation facility, playground, skating rink, neighborhood center, gymnasium, school bus stop, public library, or public or community swimming pool.

Until 2010, it was punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison for a registered sex offender to be homeless. The change is creating challenges for local authorities responsible for checking on their whereabouts on a regular basis.

Recently a homeless registered sex offender was forced to vacate a shed in St. Marys that was once part of a county park mistakenly built on private property. Authorities knew the offender was living in a shed but never cited the man with trespassing because a complaint hadn't been filed by the property owners.

The owners were unaware the man was living there until they began marketing the property. They had him removed.

"We've had people living in tents before," said Deputy William Terrell, a Camden Sheriff's Office spokesman. "That's one of the side effects of the law the way it is now."

Although state law requires local authorities to confirm the residence of a registered sex offender only once a year, Terrell said his department checks on them monthly.

"We photograph them to prove we know where they are," he said.

They are also required to re-register in person within three days of their birthday each year, when they are photographed and fingerprinted.

When deputies check on offenders, they visit the site where they say they live. If an offender isn't home, a note is left telling the person to contact the sheriff's office. Some offenders also have cell phones that deputies can call if they aren't home.

"If they don't call, we'll put forth the best effort to locate them," he said. "You keep going back."

Homeless offenders are required to notify authorities within 72 hours of changing sleeping locations.

"Some try to push the time limit," Terrell said.

It was his job to check on the whereabouts of offenders more than a decade ago when there were fewer than 30 on the list. Now, deputies check once a month on the whereabouts of 100 offenders living throughout Camden County.

"It seems to be steadily growing," Terrell said. "It's getting to be a lot of work to keep track of them. It's terrible, because there is always a victim." ..Source.. by Gordon Jackson

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