RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Wake County sheriff wants people to be proactive in knowing about registered sex offenders in their neighborhood, but deputies will also make more home visits.
Sheriff Donnie Harrison said 149 of the county’s 834 registered sex offenders were behind bars on Friday. The nearly 700 others receive two to four home visits every year to make sure they are in compliance with their registration. They also are required by state law to come in to their local sheriff’s office every six months. Offenders confirm their addresses and have pictures taken to document any changes in their appearance.
The sheriff plans to increase home visits to at least six per year, and possibly more. He said repeat offenders and those with aggravated cases face compliance checks every 90 days.
“My conscience feels better if I know where they are. I hear a lot of times that there are people that stay gone for months, don’t report to us, don’t report to other sheriffs, and I want to make sure that we’re on top of it,” Harrison said.
“If a person is going to go somewhere, he should let us know. Then we can follow up on where he’s going, so spot checking like that. If they’re (leaving without notice), sooner or later the word’s going to get around. Hey, you better follow the rules because the sheriff’s going to check on you.”
The checks have been in the news since Halifax County deputies arrested previously convicted sex offender Alexander Ezell early Wednesday morning on charges of sex crimes against an infant.
Four Wake County deputies’ primary duties are in the Sex Offender Registration division. The unit added Sergeant Marie Welch as a supervisor in January, and she said keeping track of sex offenders is a full-time job.
The sheriff said deputies found about 120 compliance violations in the last 12 to 18 months.
“When you’re checking on 700 people, that’s not too bad. But still, that’s that’s a concern that I have. That’s the reason I say I want to up it to at least six times a year,” Harrison said. “I’m not picking on them, but that’s my job. That’s my job to know where they are, and to let them know that we are going to check on them.”
Harrison said it is the responsibility of the community to be aware of sex offenders near them by checking the State Bureau of Investigation’s online registry on the Department of Public Safety’s website. The registry can be searched by address or name.
Offenders who are behind bars often have the jail’s address listed as a way to help investigators keep tabs on locations. The sheriff said people sometimes contact his office with concerns that a known offender in their neighborhood hasn’t been seen for a few days or longer.
“If some neighbor or something called us and complained that I haven’t seen Joe and know he’s a sex offender and he hasn’t been home in six months, we’ll know that Joe is incarcerated, and we’ll tell him he’s in jail,” Harrison said.
Sergeant Welch said she compares the jail list against the sex offender list at least once a month. She is able to submit addresses to a server which immediately updates the online registry.