Local News

House, Senate To Work Out Differences On Sex Offender Tracking

Posted July 25, 2006

— State lawmakers were poised on Monday evening to move forward with a bill that would better track sex offenders, but the House rejected the Senate's version of the bill.

The House voted unanimously Monday to send the bill back to conference of the bill because of technical differences, including the Senate's proposal to call it Jessica's Law -- named for a young girl killed in Florida in 2005.

States that adopted Jessica's Law require mandatory sentences and the North Carolina bill does not. Still lawmakers say it will make sex offenders easier to track, something law enforcement officers say is difficult to do.

"The honor system for the sex offender registry ain't going to work," said Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell.

His department does random door-to-door checks on the addresses listed in the registry. Of the 112 sex offenders registered in Johnston County, investigators say they find five or six every year who fail to update where they live.

Some, they never find.

"We've got one or two that we've had in NCIC for six years that we've never located," said Lt. Fred Dees with the Johnston County Sheriff's Office.

Under the proposed law, violent sex offenders would be subject to satellite-based monitoring. Addresses would have to be updated twice a year in person, instead of once a year by mail. And the Division of Motor Vehicles would help flag new residents who are convicted sex offenders in other states.

"I think it adds a tremendous amount to the state's ability to protect children and track and monitor sexual predators," said bill sponsor Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.

Glazier said it will also strengthen the credibility of the sex offender registry, and law enforcement officers hope it will help. But the Johnston County Sheriff's Office still plans to go door-to-door to check for accuracy.

"Basically, where the rubber meets the road, we're going to find and locate sex offenders and make sure they are where they're supposed to be," Bizzell said.

If the bill becomes law, some of the changes would go into effect immediately. Others like the satellite monitoring would not go into effect until next June because more time is needed to get the technology in place.


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