Losing track of sex offenders

November 13, 2009

In Pennsylvania, offenders are required to report to authorities at least once a year, some as often as every three months.

But after conducting our own search of the state's official Megan's Law website, we found more than one hundred in this area who have not been keeping police and the public notified of their whereabouts.

We went to the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Center City to look for Roger K. Smith. The website says he lived there, but he hadn't verified his address in more than a year.

Eric McCoy is listed on the website as living in a certain home we visited, he doesn't. In fact, he hasn't verified his address since 2007.

Sex offender William Hope is not living at the address listed under his name either; he hasn't checked in with police since 2006.

We did find Leslie Charles Lee at the residence listed on the state's Megan's Law website. He didn't want to show his face, but he admitted to Action News, he has not verified his address in more than three years.

"There's people out there raping and killing like that freak over there in Ohio, I'm not like that," Lee said. "I'm tired of doing it; I don't feel as though I have to do it."

"The law requires him to report, regardless of your personal feelings, you can purposely believe that the 55 an hour speed limit is not sufficient for you, but you're still required to obey that speed limit," Lt. Doug Grime of the Pennsylvania State Police said.

But in the last three years, no one has forced him to obey the law?

He is not the only offender managing to stay under the radar.

Again, we gave state police the list of more than 100 sex offenders who haven't verified their location.

It's the job of the state police to notify local police when an offender fails to check in.

Philadelphia Police say they have arrest warrants out for 48 noncompliant offenders and are investigating dozens more.

"Some of those investigations find that there were administrative errors or things like that and they were in fact in compliance," Captain John Darby of the Philadelphia Police said.

Captain Darby added that there is also a percentage of noncompliant offenders that are incarcerated.

But what about the offenders who have not checked in with police for three or four years and remain on the street? How do they simply fall through the cracks and avoid arrest?

State Police site lack of manpower and communication challenges between the state and local police departments.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman says Governor Ed Rendell and the state legislature need to do more.

"If the people who have the budgetary power do not provide sufficient resources for law enforcement to do all the things they have to do, then something winds up falling through the cracks," Ferman said.

We asked Ferman about 3 sex offenders in Norristown who had not verified their addresses in years.

"Without the information that we received yesterday from Action News, we would not have known that," Ferman said.

For the last year, detectives in the Montgomery County DA's office have been helping law enforcement search for noncompliant sex offenders.

They began looking for the three men.

"We have warrants out for two of them and one was found and he is now in custody," Ferman said.

The Philadelphia Police Department also thanked Action News for bringing these cases to its attention.

Captain Darby said the community has to play an active role as well because police can't do it alone. About 500 changes or updates to the list are processed by state police every week.

Philadelphia PD and the state police had a meeting just last month to work on improving communication and information sharing so some of these offenders do not fall through the cracks.

LINK: http://www.pameganslaw.state.pa.us/

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