Indiana is one of 35 states out of compliance with federal sex offender laws, but no one can say if and when the state will get up to speed. In fact, Indiana lost $180,000 in federal funding and grants last year because of that non-compliance.
“I think the biggest challenge we have is keeping track of them,” explained St. Joseph County police Sgt. Sonny Oakley. “They move so often. Even though there are state laws saying they have to report to us anytime something changes on their registry, they don't always do that.”
Oakley and Cpl. Steve Metcalfe would like to track down and check on the 334 sex offenders currently registered in the county full time, but burglaries and other investigations force the two police officers to wear many hats and do the sex offender checks as they find time.
WSBT tagged along with the officers as they checked on a South Bend husband and wife who are both registered sex offenders for sexual misconduct with a minor and criminal sexual conduct with a child between the ages of 13 and 16. The husband was not home and the wife told officers he’d just started a new job.
“He just started today, honestly, he really did,” the woman told Oakley.
“OK, he’s got three days to notify me,” Oakley replied.
Offenders must notify police where they live and work and if those addresses change.
To meet federal guidelines, Indiana needs to broaden the definition of sex offenses, raise the minimum number of years a sex offender has to stay on the registry from 10 to 15 and change how it handles juvenile sex offenders. But Oakley says that would ultimately make his job more difficult.
“They pass the laws and say this is a great idea – and it is – but they don’t give us the resources, they don't give us the money, the education, the tools to actually go out and do the things we need to do to keep the public informed on where sex offenders are,” he said.
Indiana's Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee talked about the issue at a meeting last week. LaPorte Senator Jim Arnold is on that committee and told WSBT keeping the registry accurate is a "huge burden," but necessary. He also said the committee is weighing the benefits versus the costs of coming into compliance with federal laws, but in his opinion the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Arnold said the committee hopes to learn how much it would cost to bring the state into federal compliance at its next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 27.
Michigan is one of 15 states currently in compliance with federal sex offender registry laws.
Link: Indiana Sex Offender Registry