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State law puts more restrictions on sex offenders

Published: Monday, April 25, 2011

Updated: Monday, April 25, 2011 17:04

Arkansas legislators recently approved a sex offender bill with more restrictions, including where some sex offenders may live. There are three registered sex offenders living within a two to three mile radius of ASU.

The closest lives in the 100 block of Melrose Street. That one is a level 2 offender with a moderate risk and the other two are level 3 offenders with a high risk status.

Detective Brian Shelton with the university police department said they receive notices through the Arkansas Crime Information Center, but do not have any set procedures for notifying campus administration.

ASU Child Development Center has access to the ACIC website directly.

"If we need further information or have suspicions, we contact UPD or the Jonesboro Police department directly," said Jeanette Combs, the director of after school programs and enrollment. "We tend to be very aware of our surroundings and we watch for suspecting behaviors. We are very protective of our children and if we feel they are unsafe in any manner we automatically do what's best for them."

The JPD's website states it pursues every reasonable means to provide for the public's safety. It is their intention to do this in a responsible manner avoiding any unnecessary overreaction or fear. JPD has no legal authority to direct where a sex offender lives, unless a court-ordered restriction exists; the offender is constitutionally free to live wherever he or she chooses.

The JPD has its own investigation division, which is responsible for the investigation of computer-related crimes and the protection of children online.

The Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) specializes in recovering forensic computer evidence and patrols Internet chat rooms for persons looking to sexually solicit children online.

According to the ACIC, a sex offender is required to register in Arkansas as detailed on the Sex Offender Registration Act of 1997. Individuals required to register are:

•Any individual who is convicted of certain sex offenses and offenses against children

•Any individual who was incarcerated, on probation or parole, or serving any other form of community supervision as a result of an adjudication of guilt for the listed offenses as of this act's effective date.

•Any person who is acquitted on the grounds of mental disease or defect for the listed offenses.

•Any person who was required to register under the Habitual Child Sex Offender Registration Act, Arkansas Code Annotated 12-12-901.

•A sex offender moving to or returning to this state from another jurisdiction shall register with the local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction within three business days of establishing residency.

Level 2 sex offenders are now included in the levels restricted from living within 2,000 feet of a school, public park, youth center or a day care facility. Previously, this restriction only applied to level 3 and 4 sex offenders who are considered violent sexual predators.

The Helena Daily World reports that the bill's limitation on places of residence have left the prison systems with over 1,400 inmates, sex offenders and other criminals who can't find a place to live even though they qualify for parole.

According to the Arkansas News, this bill requires sex offenders to register in person at a law enforcement agency, whereas before they were required to register by mail every six months.

Rep. Justin Harris of West Fork said in the Arkansas News it would save taxpayers at least $70,000 a year in postage because sex offenders are notified by mail when it is time to renew their registration.

    Rep. Jon Woods of Springdale sponsored the bill, which also allows the community to be notified before a state sex offender assessment is completed and notifies the public when an out-of-state sex offender moves into a community.

    Previously the agency had to wait until after the assessment, which could take up to six months. Woods sought a change after a 25-year-old offender moved to Springdale from Missouri in March 2010 and was arrested and charged with kidnapping a young girl. The citizens of Springdale were unaware of the offender's residence because at the time citizens could only be notified after the assessment and the person's level assignment.

    This bill also allows sex offenders to be fined for failing to register. If the offender is more than five days late but less than seven days the fine is $30. If a sex offender is seven days to 10 days late the fine is $60, and $120 if more than 10 days late registering. If the person fails to register, report an address change or comply with assessments he or she will be guilty of a class C felony, which is punishable by a minimum of 3 and not more than 10 years in prison.

    The ACIC's website details information regarding the regulations of sex offenders. It also includes a link where concerned citizens can view pictures of all registered sex offenders and check for offenders in their respective neighborhoods. ACIC can be reached by phone at 501-682-2222 or through its website at www.acic.org.

 

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