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Not All Of State's Convicted Sex Offenders Are Listed On Registry

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — Every month, Wake County investigators arrest people on felony charges for failing to register on the state's sex offender registry. There are more than 400 names on the registry in Wake County, but investigators say we have a lot more to fear from people who are not on the list.

By law, anyone convicted of a sex crime since 1996 must register with the Sheriff's Office within 10 days of moving into a county.

"They're given 10 days and on the 11th day, we draw warrants," said Wayne Bumgardner, of the Wake County Sheriff's Office.

Prisons and probation officers alert the sheriff's office when a sex offender moves into the area. Wake County has 69 warrants out for people who have failed to register.

"I've heard everything from, 'I forgot' to 'I didn't think it was that serious,'" he said.

Bumgardner said there are no excuses. Failing to register is punishable by up to two years in prison.

"All these people are already convicted felons and so the courts take it very seriously when they don't follow their obligation to register or to maintain their registry as in updating their address," he said.

Some critics claim one reason for not registering may be backlash from neighbors who sometimes go to great lengths to spotlight the sex offender on their street. Whatever the reason, Bumgardner believes those who do not register are much more of a threat than the ones who do.

"If you know a sex offender is in your neighborhood and they are living quietly, you're aware of that. You know that," he said. "Protect your children, parent your children and be aware. Be alert of things you don't know."

Even sex offenders who visit North Carolina from other states must register if they stay longer than 15 days. The registry -- known nationally as Megan's law -- is in effect in all 50 states. A recent survey found an estimated 24 percent of the nation's sex offenders are not registered. North Carolina is one of 38 states to put the information online.