Some Marion County residents found law enforcement officers standing at their front door Wednesday.
Some Marion County residents found law enforcement officers standing at their front door Wednesday. Members of the sheriff’s department and U.S. Marshals Service teamed up to perform a compliance check of registered sex offenders who reside in Marion County.
“We want the community to be aware that we’re keeping an eye on these individuals for our community,” said Sheriff Jimmy Shinn, who was attending an annual sheriff’s conference at the Lake of the Ozarks on Wednesday.
Coordinating Wednesday’s effort was Capt. Lisa Jones of the sheriff’s department. According to Jones, four teams fanned out across the county on Wednesday.
“I have a deputy and a marshal on each team,” she said. “I also have two officers from the cyber unit so if we get any kind of a computer we have to look at then I have a specialized team that’s here to help us with that.”
Jones estimated there are approximately 125 registered sex offenders in Marion County.
“That number stays fairly steady,” she said. “They’re scattered throughout the county, but of course we have more in Hannibal because the population is bigger.”
The last verification check occurred less than two years ago.
“We change when we do it. We do not want to get in pattern of when we do it,” said Shinn. “We do not want to lose the element of surprise of when we’re going to verify their information.”
Verification programs such as Wednesday’s hinge on the availability of personnel.
“Basically it’s whenever the U.S. Marshals have the time to come up here,” said Jones. “We call them or they call us. Actually this time they called us and wanted to come up.”
The verification checks do not happen on a whim as some preparation work is necessary.
“It takes us about six weeks to get the files ready,” said Jones.
Shinn terms the visits as “knock and talks.”
“We just basically go and confirm the information we have from the sex offender registration form to make sure they are in compliance with everything they should be,” said Jones. “If they’re not then we have the option of whether we want to take them in on a 24 (hour hold).”
By and large the individuals being checked up on are cooperative.
“They know and understand, based on the crime they were convicted of, that this is what they have to do the rest of their life,” said Shinn.
“Overall, they’re willing to comply,” added Jones. “We do have a few that have attitude. They don’t want us there; don’t like us there. But they don’t really have any choice.”
If an individual is not at home when officers arrive, a sheet explaining why they were there is left.
“We give them 48 hours to call in to our main office,” said Jones.
If no contact is made during the 48-hour period, Shinn will “assign deputies go out and knock on doors and try to make contact over the next week.”
On occasion officers find themselves showing up at an inaccurate address.
“If we find a house that’s obviously vacant or has a new tenant and they don’t know the sex offender we’re looking for, we’ll start searching. Maybe we’ll talk to neighbors to see if we can find out if anybody knows where they might be, or we’ll go off the information we have from their registration (form) and possibly find where they work, who their relatives are, stuff like that and start checking into it,” said Jones. “Then we know they’re definitely not in compliance. When they move they only have three days to give us notice.”
Non-compliant individuals are the exception, rather than the rule.
“I’d say it’s probably less than 1 percent we have problems with,” said Jones. “Most of them are pretty good about staying in compliance.”
Being in compliance doesn’t just mean notifying law enforcement in the community where a convicted sex offender lives.
“Even if they’re working in Quincy, they have to notify Quincy,” said Jones. “If we have a resident from Illinois that’s working over here, they have to notify us they’re in our jurisdiction so many hours.”