Originally Published: July 11, 2007 11:45 a.m.
The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office has launched an Internet-based program, Offender Watch, to keep citizens better informed about the whereabouts of registered sex offenders.
The program allows people to enter any local address. It then provides a map with locations of all registered sex offenders living within a one-mile radius of that address, but only within the boundaries of Yavapai County.
The program is available 24/7 and is useful in understanding the safety factor of where children catch the bus, play with their friends and go to school, the Sheriff's Office says.
The Web site also offers the free e-mail notification anytime a sex offender registers with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office and moves within a mile of the address that a citizen entered during subscription.
The Web site provides pertinent information about the offender such as his or her exact address, mug shot, scars, tattoos, convictions and vehicles.
The law in Arizona requires a lifetime registration for all sex offenders regardless of their level.
Sex offenders must notify the Sheriff's Office in person within 72 hours of moving to another location. Failure to update address and photograph every year is a Class 6 felony and failure to register as a sex offender is a Class 4 felony.
Police agencies have been tracking down sex offenders since the enactment of the registration law in August 1996.
Sheriff's Office Detective Wendy Parkison said tips from citizens, relatives and arrests unrelated to sex offender registration help her identify sex offenders who had failed to comply with the terms of registration.
Over the past six months, the Sheriff's Office Sex Offender Compliance Unit arrested 12 male sex offenders for failure to register.
Eight of them had prior convictions for failing to register. Authorities classified six of the 12 men as intermediate risk or high risk to the community.
They assess someone's risk level based on a list of 19 questions that are considered as significant factors contributing to sex offender recidivism. Each question is given a score, using the Arizona Risk Assessment. The scores' total indicates a specific risk level.
Some of the questions include the offender's criminal history, substance abuse, nature of the offense, a number of the victims and their gender and the age when the offender committed the first offense, Parkison said.
She said sex offenders who fail to register do it because they are disregarding the law and not because they are unaware of it.
Unless the offender is on probation or parole, no restrictions exist as to where or with whom they can live, Parkison said.
For the past two years, the Sheriff's Office, in conjunction with the Adult Probation Department, has conducted the Halloween "No Tricks or Treats" effort to ensure that sex offenders are complying with rules, laws and guidelines; that their residences are not decorated for Halloween or in anyway attractive to children who are trick-or-treating on that night.
To learn more about the Offender Watch program go to www.watchsystems.com/ az/yavapai/.
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