TV6 Investigates: 39 Percent of Scott County’s sex offenders have violated registry guidelines

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 11:00 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - There are over 400 sex offenders who live within the Scott County lines. All of whom have to report to the Sheriff’s office at least once a year.

The Scott County Sex Offender task Force conducts random compliance checks throughout the year, otherwise known as “sweeps.” The last sweep was conducted in late August when a check on over 300 registered sex offenders resulted in 10 arrests and an all around 93 percent compliance rate, according to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office.

“There’s about 5 percent that seem to not want to follow the rules,” said Sheriff Tim Lane.

What rules are there in the registry, what does it take to be in compliance, and how many sex offenders in Scott County have been charged with a registry violation?

TV6 Investigates combed through all 25 pages of registered offenders on the Scott County website and delved into the criminal history of 468 of them, finding 181--or 39 percent--to have received a violation at least once.

92 of the 181, or 50 percent, have been charged with a violation more than once.

“Iowa code section 692-A, which is part of sex offender registry codes, has a lot of requirements in it,” said Diana Danielson, a Parole Officer for sex offenders in Scott County, “from cell phone numbers, to places of employment, all the different vehicles registrants may own or operate, where they live, who they live with, [and] where they’ve worked.”

Danielson says committing a registry violation is easier than one might think considering all of the information sex offenders are required to report to the Sheriff’s office.

Which is something that Sheriff Lane says he keeps in mind when offenders are a few late to register. “If we can get them to be in compliance for less serious things without charging them, we frequently do that instead,” he said.

Plus, Lane says some violations are more serious than others.

Violations such as failing to report a new address, or an unreported minor living within the sex offender’s home. “That’s very serious and we are going to charge that,” said Lane.

For example, Larry Wellington has been on the registry since 2005 for third degree sexual abuse of a minor. He has four convictions for failing to register, and two for providing false information to the registry.

Another example is Terry Thomas, convicted in 2014 with indecent exposure. He has since been convicted with a verification violation, or the failure to verify information that police consider relevant, and three registry violations.

The most recent charge was in October when the task force found Thomas was not staying in a hotel he claimed to be staying at since July.

However, these are two examples of more serious violations. Could sex offenders be dealing with requirements that are difficult to follow?

“In my experience, they just don’t read the code,” said Anthony Johnson, part of the Scott County Sex Offender Task Force.

Johnson says that while they are provided with a clear outline of the guidelines they are required to follow, many registrants do not pay attention to detail.

“Many times in interviews I straight up ask them ‘did you read it’ and they respond no,” said Johnson.

It’s enough to trigger a violation, but does it mean a sex offender is more likely to re-offend if he or she has been convicted of a violation?

According to Johnson, there is no way of knowing, which is why the task force is responsible for overseeing each and every registrant to make sure he or she is in compliance.

“We interview them about everything on the registry and many times they’ll slip up or give us conflicting information that can start an investigation right there,” said Johnson, “right now I’m 15 deep that need to be attended to.”

Danielson, however, responsible for overseeing treatment, has a different perspective.

“Persons who have gone through treatment and do well on supervision actually have a very low recidivism rate,” Danielson said, “many clients move on from this and go on to have a law-abiding life.”

With what Sheriff Lane says is a 95-percent compliance rate the Scott County Sex Offender Registry has at any given time, chances are the majority of registrants aren’t actively looking to not follow the rules or re-offend.

The registry, however, is still public for safety reasons.

“The registry is there to help protect the public,” said Johnson, “not to ostracize the registrants. The majority of them have done their crime and they’re in compliance.”

For your own safety, and your children, the task force says to keep mindful of behaviors of people around you, and never be afraid to ask for advice, or send in a tip.

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