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Most sex offenders comply with law

Public can find, track offenders online

Posted: April 6, 2012 2:34 p.m.
Updated: April 9, 2012 5:00 a.m.

In its weekly law enforcement reports, the Chronicle-Independent sometimes publishes cases of sex offenders failing to register on the S.C. Sex Offender Registry or inform law enforcement of their movements. Until now, the C-I has not published the names of these “non-compliant” sex offenders. Effective with this series of stories, the C-I will begin publishing the names and other vital information of wanted non-compliant sex offenders in our weekly reports.

Beverly Brevard is in her sixth year of tracking sex offenders for the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). As the KCSO’s sex offender registrar, she’s tracking 189 sex offenders living -- or supposed to be living -- in Kershaw County right now. At least three haven’t checked in, including one living in Pennsylvania whom Brevard may never see again. In recent days she has finished reorganizing her files to reflect changes in the state’s sex offender statutes. The amendments, passed in 2010 and enacted last year, have forced her to split the files up between those who have to check in twice a year and those who have to do so quarterly. There are also files of sex offenders who can’t check in; they’re either in prison -- or dead.

Brevard said most sex offenders comply with the law, first enacted in 1994, registering and checking in when they are supposed to.

“Most are compliant until something goes wrong in their life,” she said. “It’s not really that often that offenders don’t check in. Sometimes they get sick or even end up in the hospital -- I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ve had more missing in the last three years than in the whole time I’ve been doing this.”

Brevard has been in charge of sex offenders at the KCSO since 2006, taking their pictures and fingerprinting them. Sheriff’s offices have been responsible for monitoring sex offenders – Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews called it an unfunded mandate -- since the law took effect.

“Those convicted before then aren’t on the registry, but if a sheriff wants to pursue it, they can be ruled in,” Brevard said.

Sexual offenses range from the almost trivial to the highly disturbing. Some Kershaw County residents are on the registry because they engaged in sexual activity with a boyfriend or girlfriend who was underage, despite being just a few years or even months apart in age. Others are now out of prison after having served years in prison for raping young children.

There are also some people on the list Brevard is fighting to have removed, despite their crimes.

The 2010 amendments included provisions for those charged with kidnapping or human trafficking to be placed on the sex offender registry list. While placing human traffickers -- especially those in the sex slave trade -- on the list may sound palatable, kidnapping might be another story.

To most people, kidnapping means abducting someone, especially a child, and holding them against their will. Legally, however, someone who robs a bank and keeps tellers from leaving the bank at gunpoint can be charged with kidnapping. Specifically, the amended law includes human trafficking as a Tier II offense, requiring bi-annual reporting. Kidnapping includes Tier II and Tier III offenders. Tier II offenders (who have to check in with Brevard bi-annually) are those charged with kidnapping involving someone 18 years of age or older when a sexual component exists. However, Tier III (quarterly reporting) kidnapping offenses involve situations where the victim is under 18 whether a sexual component exists or not. The only exception is when a parent is the kidnapper.

For example, Brevard said there is one man on the registry convicted of burglary and kidnapping when he held up a business and kept at least one employee from leaving. However, she said, there is no sexual component to his crime. He may not deserve to get out of jail until he serves his time, but he doesn’t deserve to be on the sex offender list for life, Brevard said.

Most offenders are placed on the registry by the S.C. Department of Corrections when they are released from prison. Brevard or officers from the S.C. Department of Parole, Probation and Pardon Services can also make new entries when an offender’s sentence is suspended in lieu of probation and come “directly from court,” as Brevard put it.

In addition to that work, Brevard also has to deal with sex offenders from other states who move to South Carolina. Other states have other laws to define sexual crimes and how to classify offenders. Is someone convicted of rape in another state guilty of what South Carolina considers rape?

Instead of figuring how to convert another state’s charges or classifications to South Carolina’s standards, Brevard said the state follows the other states’ statutes.

Staying informed

Brevard said most offenders are compliant because they’ve matured since being convicted.

“They’ve gotten jobs, gotten married and even had children,” she said.

That’s why she hopes the public won’t get up in arms when they learn a sex offender might be in their midst.

“Tracking sex offenders is serious, but I wish the public wouldn’t jump up and scream, ‘I’ve got a sex offender next door’ before knowing what the actual offense is,” Brevard said.

The S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is the head agency responsible for maintaining a statewide database of sex offenders. SLED used to maintain its own, proprietary database, but switched to a nationwide service called Offender Watch several years ago.

The public can see SLED’s portion of Offender Watch at www.communitynotification.com/cap_main.php?office=54575. Searches can be conducted in several ways. On the left side of the page are tabs to allow residents to search based on their own address, individual offenders’ names and city. Here, the public can also access a 500-plus long list of non-compliant offenders from across the state. If parents are concerned their children are being contacted by an offender, they can also search by Internet name, email address or phone number.

Other search options are available on the right side of the page where they can look at a list of all 11,372 offenders currently tracked by SLED, or by several various criteria, including county. A search on Kershaw County shows 134 offenders, off from Brevard’s count of 189 by 55. She said the discrepancy is part of Offender Watch’s continuing struggles to keep up with “live” information.

Also on the right side of the page is a place where residents can sign up to receive email alerts whenever an offender registers within anywhere from .25 mile to 2 miles of their address.

Clicking through an offenders’ entry reveals their name with their most recent photograph, any aliases they might use, whether they are a Tier II or Tier III offender, and the last date their information was verified. The offender’s physical description is included -- age, sex, height and weight, eye and hair color and any scars and tattoos. Their complete address is provided with a link to an online map. Finally, there is a description of the offense, as given by state statute, along with their date of conviction; the state where they were convicted; and, if available, the date and details of when they were released from prison.

There are also “tabs” that sometimes provide general information on the offender’s victim (age and sex), whether any warrants are active against them, other known addresses and if they own a particular vehicle.

This is all information Brevard either enters herself, or verifies and updates when necessary.

Finally, there are two links under the offender’s photograph for submitting tips or corrections or to register to track that particular offender.

“I urge people to sign up for the community notifications,” Brevard said. “That way, they can stay informed. It includes mapping and residential information.

“It’s a way to know who your neighbors are.”

Anyone with information on sex offender registry violators is urged to call the KCSO at 425-1512.

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