Keeping Track Of Sex Offenders Continuous, Daunting Task
By KENNETH DEAN And MICHELE REESE
Tyler Paper And KYTX CBS19 Investigators
Keeping an eye on those convicted of sex crimes is a daunting task that has investigators checking the offenders' residents, places of employment, vehicles and requiring the offenders to check in with police periodically.
If an offender fails to meet the requirements, a warrant is issued and the offender is arrested and charged with a new crime that may or may not send the person back to prison.
The reason the offenders must register and meet all of the requirements is because law enforcement officials say sex offenders are not like other criminals.
"Studies have shown that people who commit sexual crimes on a whole continue to commit the same type of crimes," Tyler Police Det-ective Andy Erbaugh said.
When a child goes missing, some of the first people questioned by police typically are sex offenders living in the area, so police take great pains in knowing where they can be found, Erbaugh said.
Erbaugh and Smith Coun-ty Sheriff's Detective Jerilyn Scott together manage be-tween 350 and 400 individuals each month in the Tyler and Smith County area. Erbaugh is in charge of offenders living in the city and Detective Scott manages offenders living in the county.
The two work with each other and other departments in the area and across the nation.
The Texas Department of Pub-lic Safety sex offender database indicates there are 1,264 registered sex offenders in an eight-county area surrounding Tyler with more than a dozen attending local colleges. Detective Scott and Lt. Tony Dana recently spoke about an offender they arrested for violating his requirements by moving back and forth between Winona and Upshur County. Dana said the arrest was based on good evidence, but Smith County Assistant District Attorney Richard Vance said he had to drop the charges because the case was too hard to prove.
Vance said the man registered with Upshur County authorities and appeared to be living at that address and only visiting the address in Smith County.
Detective Scott and Dana both said they will continue to work cases of offenders violating requirements be-cause the public's safety is their No. 1 priority. Erbaugh agreed, saying that if offenders even visit a relative in another state for seven days they must notify the department where they are registered and the law enforcement agency where they will be visiting.
Erbaugh said 95 percent of all offenders will remain on the registry because they are life offenders.
"It's very hard, nearly impossible for anyone to get off the lifetime registration list," he said. Juvenile sex offenders are registered for 10 years, but that number depends on when they are paroled or when their sentence is up, he said.
Erbaugh said if one of the offenders reporting to him was to enroll in college classes, he would call the college to inform them.
"We have to communicate with entities and authorities all the time when it comes to sex offenders, and I have other states call me asking about offenders. It's not just watching people here, but knowing where they have gone and any new offenders moving into the area," he said.
Erbaugh and Detective Scott said if an offender is not on some type of restrictions in accordance with probation or parole, they can live anywhere -- even next door to an elementary school.
"Most offenders are known by their victims and many commit crimes against family members and are not some random person attacking people. We do have those cases, but the majority knew their victims," Dana said.