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Editorial: Police sweeps are necessary to keep tabs on sex offenders

Dec. 20, 2012 @ 11:43 PM

Sex offender registries were established to help residents and parents keep watch on potential predators in their neighborhoods.

But these registries also have come to underscore the huge volume of sex-related crimes and the challenge communities face in keeping up with all these offenders.

Each year thousands are added to the roles, and most are required to register for life. So, the pool continues to grow.

Currently, there are almost 750,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which surveys the individual state registries each year. That's up 23 percent from about 600,000 in 2006.

Some critics say those numbers are inflated with people whose offense might be considered minor, but a quick review of the 166 offenders registered in Cabell County shows most were convicted of serious offenses that parents and neighbors would want to know about.

However, maintaining up-to-date information on their whereabouts is no easy task. Most offenders are required to register with address at least once a year, and judges also can order more frequent registration for some. Yet, experts say that at any given time thousands of registered sex offenders are on the move or missing.

Area law enforcement groups found some of that during a recent sweep to verify compliance of local offenders.

In West Virginia, state and federal agents checked out 229 offenders in Cabell, Wayne and Mingo counties, and found 18 out of compliance. Some simply had registered without correct contact information, but others had moved to another address. Officers also confiscated weapons and drugs.

Charges were also brought against seven offenders in Kentucky, after checking compliance on 176 cases.

Operation River Cities, as it was called, was led by the U.S. Marshals Service's Cops United Felony Fugitive Enforcement Division and a number of other state and local law enforcement agencies. Of course, the special effort involved only a small portion of the 3,600 registered offenders in West Virginia.

But we hope it helps send a message to those on the registry to keep their information up to date and reminds the public that if they are aware of irregularities, they should report them.

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