Crime Watch Special Report: Sex Offenders In Your Neighborhood
Story By: Tim Lavigne, Meteorologist and Reporter
YUMA, Ariz. - (13 On Your Side) - Sex offenders in Yuma live among us - in almost every neighborhood. Whether it be by committing forced sexual acts with minors or adults, child porn, sexting, or more - the title of sex offender does not come lightly. 13 On Your Side got an inside look at how police keep an eye on sex offenders who have the greatest risk to re-offend. Any sex offender who is considered at least a medium risk to reoffend must register their address with the state. Those names and addresses are stored into a public registry that is offered on the Yuma County Sheriff's Office website.
But not everyone knows - about who their neighbors really are - and according to the sheriff's office - there is no stereotype to profile a sex offender. Not everyone like Trisha Ramirez knows law enforcement keeps track of them and all of that information including their address is open to the public. Ramirez is a mother of four. With a click of the mouse -- 13 on your side located 20 registered sex offenders living near Ramirez. "It concerns me because I have a 7 year old who crosses the street to play with his friends." says Ramirez.
The sex offender registry began in 1996 from a law called "Megan's Law" - named after a New Jersey child who was sexually assaulted and killed by a neighbor who was a sex offender. The registry has 3 levels based on risk to re-offend - 1 being a low risk, and 3 being a high risk. Yuma County Sheriff's deputy Roxanne Meyer says the key to protecting your children from child predators -- is to educate yourself - and find out where they live. They have to register every year, and are required to have an Arizona drivers license or valid ID that expires every year so that way we can keep track of where they're living or where they're stating that they are living." says Meyer.
But, Meyer says not all convicted sex offenders are required to register online. "Only level 2's and 3's get notifications, according to Arizona state law we cannot issue notifications for level 1's." Says Meyer. In Yuma County -- there are 380 level 2 and level 3 registered sex offenders. 120 of them live within the city - and may look - just like any other neighbor. However, only level 3 sex offenders are restricted from living near schools. Level 3's are not allowed to live within 1000 feet of any schools or daycares.
Meyer says there are also offenders who are highly likely to re-offend that do not have to register because they were convicted before "Megan's Law" went into effect. Meyer says "anybody that committed a crime before 1996, they are considered pre-megan". Not to mention - sex offenders that refuse to register with the Sheriff's Office - known as "absconders" are also out there. "the ones that refuse to register or that just don't want to apply with Arizona state law, we will issue a warrant for their arrest for a felony charge." Says Meyer.
Ramirez says - as a mother - she doesn't care what level a sex offender is. She says she would judge them all the same. "I feel like I would need to." says Ramirez. She says residency protection laws should not apply to repeat sex offenders. "I have respect for the law and stuff, but it's for the safety of the kids, and if they're re-offending it makes them more of a danger." Says Ramirez. She says keeping her children safe - is first and foremost, her number one priority. "I'd do anything for their safety, my kids are my world to me, if do anything to make sure that they are safe and in good hands.
Again, the Yuma County Sheriff's Office wants to let you know that sex offenders can be anyone - they do not have a specific stereotype. While sex offenders are required to notify police where they live - not all of them do. That's why it's even more important for you to keep a close eye on your kids - and teach them about stranger danger.
you can find registered sex offenders online by visiting the national sex offender registry at www.familywatchdog.us . They have a map of offenders marked by their home and work. it is absolutely free. you can also look it up by address as well.
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