Reaffirming Their Oaths

With the entrance of new Sheriff Steve Pelton, deputies and law enforcement personnel from all over Franklin County were re-sworn in last week by Presiding Judge Gael Wood. The last time this had to be done was 28 years ago when recently retired sheriff Gary Toelke took office from Paul Bruns in the late 1980s.    Missourian File Photo.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department is aggressive in its approach to track registered sex offenders.

That’s why, according to Sheriff Steve Pelton, there are only eight of 288 offenders in the county who are unaccounted for — four of whom have a warrant for their arrest.

The Missourian spoke with Pelton following a report released by the Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office.

By Missouri law, the sheriff’s office is responsible for the registering and monitoring of the sex offenders in the county.

According to the statewide report, authorities do not know the location of almost 1,300 registered sex offenders in Missouri. That report indicates 10 sex offenders in Franklin County who are unaccounted for.

Pelton said the difference in what the state reported, 10, and the actual number of noncompliant sex offenders in Franklin County, eight, is due to how often some offenders must report.

“We have people coming in and out weekly,” he said. “There is always an ebb and flow.”

He noted that one of those cases involves a sex offender who is dual registered in the county where he had been employed, Franklin, and the county where he lives, Gasconade. The offender no longer works in Franklin County. He is no longer a part of Franklin County’s total.

A second offender registered here is from St. Louis County but he was in the Franklin County Jail for six weeks. Due to state requirements, any offender who lives at one address for at least three days must register in that county. Even though the man bonded out of jail, he still is counted in the Franklin County population of offenders because he has not yet registered in his home county, Pelton said.

Aggressive Stance

The sheriff’s department for many years has conducted compliance checks twice each year.

According to Pelton, those checks are not required but they are done to better ensure the safety of county residents.

“The safety of kids is always a priority of this office,” Pelton said.

The most recent compliance check was in March when six sex offenders were found to be noncompliant. The state Department of Probation and Parole participated in the March checks.

The unreported violations range from changes to their residency, vehicle registration, phone number, internet and social media use.

Compliance checks allow investigators to ensure the offenders are compliant with both Missouri Sex Offender Rules and Regulations and the Department of Probation and Parole. All sex offenders in Franklin County are checked on throughout the year.

Officers also check to ensure offenders are in compliance with conditions on the use of computer access/sites, email information and the identity of others who reside at the residence.

In addition, there is a compliance check conducted every Halloween to ensure sex offenders are not participating in Halloween activities that are banned by state statutes.

Restrictions include a sign at his or her residence stating, “No candy or treats at this residence.”

Registered sex offenders can’t have any Halloween-related contact with children, and they are required to turn off all outside residential lighting Oct. 31 after 5 p.m.

Offenders also must stay inside their residences between 5-10:30 p.m. unless required to be elsewhere for just cause, including, but not limited to, employment or medical emergencies, Pelton noted.

Warrants

There are open investigations against the four sex offenders who have arrest warrants against them, Pelton said.

He explained that oftentimes the compliance checks lead to additional charges against the offenders.

The additional charges explain why the sex offenders have not reported, Pelton stated, adding once they report at the sheriff’s office, they will be arrested and taken into custody.

Statewide

According to a report by the Associated Press, statewide, hundreds of the 1,259 sex offenders who are unaccounted for are offenders who fall into the most dangerous category.

Galloway said the findings are “disturbing and alarming.

“As it stands the sex offender registry really provides a false sense of security,” Galloway said at a news conference in St. Louis.

Missouri’s registration requirement law took effect in 1995 and was updated this year to classify sex offenders into three tiers. The most dangerous sex offenders are listed in Tier III for offenses that include rape, sodomy or first- or second-degree child molestation. Those offenders must register with local police every 90 days for the rest of their lives.

The audit showed the problem persists in places large and small, the AP reported. Stoddard County in rural southeast Missouri had the highest rate of unaccounted for sex offenders, 25.2 percent, followed by Jackson County, which includes Kansas City, at 20.7 percent. Butler County, also in southeast Missouri, was third-worst at 20 percent, followed by St. Louis city at 19.3 percent.