Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sex Offender Registry Couldn't Stop Ohio Deaths

newsnet5.com : Sex Offender Checks Quick; Deputies Can't Enter Homes.
wytv.com : PERSPECTIVE: Registry couldn't stop Ohio deaths.

Columbus, Ohio (AP) — One of Ohio's foremost champions of tougher sexual predator laws conceded a certain futility to such efforts as body after body was removed last week from the Cleveland home of Anthony Sowell.
Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Austria, a former state Senator from the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, repeatedly championed state laws that he and other supporters believed would make the state safer.

Yet Sowell, a compliant registered sex offender after doing prison time for attempted rape, is accused of murdering several unsuspecting women and stowing their bodies in a house and yard that reeked of rotting flesh. Remains of 11 people have been found.

Bills that Austria introduced and ushered through the state Legislature cracked down on Internet predators, created a tracking system for sex offenders within and outside the state's borders, and established the country's first substantially complete sex offender registration and notification systems under the federal Adam Walsh Act.

Austria acknowledged, though, that no law probably could have been written that would have avoided the "horrific and disturbing tragedy" that's unfolding in Cleveland.

"While these bills play an important role in allowing us to keep track of sex offenders and requiring them to register, those who are going to commit these terrible acts unfortunately will find ways around any safeguards we create in the law," he said.

According to a 2008 report by the Office of Sex Offender Management, a project of the U.S. Justice Department, "these laws have significant resource implications, yet to date very little research has been conducted to examine the extent to which these investments have yielded significant public safety returns."

Much of the controversy centers on a Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputy who checked on Anthony, a registered sex offender and suspect in the 11 slayings, in late September. NewsChannel5's Duane Pohlman went along with another deputy checking other sex offenders to reveal a program that is limited by the law and overwhelming in numbers. Deputy Rodney Blanton knocks on a lot of doors. He is one of just two deputies in Cuyahoga County who check to see if sex offenders are where they're supposed to be. With 3,600 sex offenders in the county, the routine home visits are quick, some lasting just 15 to 30 seconds. A little more than a month before the grisly discoveries on Imperial Avenue, another deputy conducted the same quick check on Sept. 22 at the home of Sowell. "He was there. 'I live here.' Good enough. So, it would have probably been a 30-second verification, just like you witnessed this morning," said Detective Susan DeChant, of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department.

Since sex offender laws don't allow the deputy to enter the home (That would, of course be an illegal and unconstitutional search) , the deputy didn't report anything unusual. If he did, detective said they would have investigated."Absolutely, there would have been a report done and there would have been more investigation on it," said DeChant. But, with thousands of sex offenders, there's no time to check anything other than an address, and the notion that the quick visit to Sowell's home should have caught him in the act is simply not realistic, detectives say."It's not going to stop an offender from reoffending, if that's what they're going to do," said DeChant.