Neighborhood Watch for OffendersPosted: March 4, 2010
Danielle Gibson, 33, has lived in many places throughout her life. From apartments to townhouses to owning her own house, Gibson has moved from one neighborhood to the next.
In 2008, Gibson moved to Athens, Ga, along with her husband and two-year-old daughter. However, the move this time was different. It wasn’t about finding the perfect home but about the safety of her child from neighborhood offenders.
Gibson isn’t alone with her concerns of safety; many families throughout the country feel the same. According to the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, more than half of rape/sexual assault incidents happen within a mile of the victim’s home. The sheriff’s department also estimates that “80% of all addresses have at least one offender within a mile of an address.”
So what exactly is Athens doing to keep their community safe? Are sexual offenders and predators complying with the rules that permit them to reside in certain locations, such as downtown?
- Cpl. Muriel Price from the Clarke County Sheriff’s department verifies that there are approximately 100 active sex offenders living in Athens-Clarke County.
- There is only one sex offender in Athens that is classified as a predator.
- Regarding places where sex offenders can reside, the registry states that offenders and predators cannot live within 1,000 feet of any child-care facility, school, church, or an area where minors congregate.
There is a difference between being a sexual offender and a sexual predator. The Georgia Sex Offender registry states that a “sexual offender means any individual who has been convicted of a criminal offense against a victim who is a minor or any dangerous sexual offense,” while a “sexual predator” is someone who is dangerous and who was “designated as a sexually violent predator between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 2006 or A person who is determined by the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board to be at risk of perpetrating any future dangerous sexual offense.”
The sheriff’s office states that there is no such thing as a “typical” sex offender; nevertheless, they all are likely to be manipulative, deceiving, and secretive. Sex offenders come from all backgrounds, ages, income levels, and professions.
Citizens are allowed to search through the Sexual Offender Registry online to find more information about offenders living in their area. The registry gives the address to where the offender currently resides, what crime they committed, whether or not they are incarcerated, and most importantly, it shows the residence verification date.
“We use two mapping systems to determine distances,” stated Capt. Jimps Cole of the Clark County Sherriff’s Department. “One is OffenderWatch, which is the one on our website and the other is a county owned system.”
OffenderWatch allows neighbors to know how close an offender lives to them. For example, the First United Methodist Church located downtown shows that there are 12 offenders living within a two-mile radius of the church. The radius can be changed from two miles to 0.25 miles. At 0.25 miles or 1,320 feet, there are no offenders living in a close proximity to the church. Different addresses can be placed into the system and according to the program, there are currently no offenders in Athens violating the residential rule.
The sheriff’s department also uses a GPS device that is used as a confirmation if the distance of the offender is close to 1,000 feet.
If offenders move and there is a change of address, the State of Georgia requires offenders to register through the sheriff’s office. However, if offenders do not move and there is no change of address, they are still required to register once a year.
There is only one sex predator in Athens-Clarke County. Stanley Adams, 54, was convicted in 2002 for child molestation. Sexual predators must register more than once a year to the sheriff’s office. Adams is currently in jail.
The sheriffs of Athens-Clarke County keep a close eye on offenders. At random times during the year, they make unannounced checks on each registered offender. This is to verify the information that the offender had given them at the time of registration.
“If we observe a violation, we submit an application to the court for an arrest warrant on the violator…we then arrest the offender and take them to jail,” Cole added.
This program gives community members a sense of safety.
“We are lucky to have a community program such as OffenderWatch to monitor who moves in around our neighborhoods. With another child on the way, it gives me a peace of mind,” Gibson said.