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TV6 Investigates: Does the sex offender registry keep the public safe?

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 10:05 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - A few weeks ago, TV6 Investigates reported that as many as 36 percent of Scott County sex offenders have violated Iowa’s registry guidelines.

There are 468 registered sex offenders in Scott County. 181 of them have been convicted of a violation without re-offending.

In November TV6 Investigates looked at what a violation consists of and how the sheriff’s office charges them by level of severity. TV6′s Darby Sparks sat down with Bryce Schmidt, the Chief Deputy of the Scott County Sheriff’s office, and former officer in charge of the Scott County Sex Offender’s Task Force, to ask if the registry’s guidelines keep a sex offender from re-offending.

“These [enforcements] are set up to keep people in check and to be able to monitor their behavior, and make sure their in compliance,” said Schmidt, “so they’re put in good place for that reason.”

However, he said it’s a loaded question.

“If a sex offender is determined to re-offend, they are probably going to find a way to do it,” said Schmidt.

Sparks then asked if it was easy for a sex offender to commit a violation.

“Those that want to, and go out of their way, to stay compliant we rarely have problems with,” Schmidt said, “but they have to make the effort to stay in contact with us.”

The Sheriff’s Office might tell a registrant that the more they communicate with people inside of the Scott County Courthouse, the more likely they are to stay out of it.

However, TV6 Investigates sat down with a currant Scott County registrant who claims it is not that easy. He agreed to speak with Darby Sparks under the condition of anonymity, so TV6 gave him the false name of Jerry.

“It just makes everything in your life more difficult,” said Jerry, “any change in your life, whether it’s a phone number, car, tattoo, [or] a piercing, you have to update it and you have five days.”

“Jerry” was convicted of third degree sex abuse in 2009 after police discovered he had been having an ongoing sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. “Jerry” was 22.

He received suspended prison time, two years of probation and was ordered to register as a sex offender for at least 10 years.

He was hit with a registration violation in 2016 when court documents say he moved in with his girlfriend and didn’t inform the county of his address change.

It’s a conviction “Jerry” says was thrown on him with no regard to his history for following the registry’s terms.

“I ended up doing 25 days in jail and had three and a half years added to my registry,” said Jerry, “[in] my situation, you can have no issues for eight years and you’re still considered a low-to-mid repeat offender.”

The Scott County Sheriff’s office, however, considers a violation of not updating a changed address to be one of the most serious non-compliance violations to the registry.

“There are principle rules as far as changes in the registry. Address, phone number, how to get ahold of you and employment,” said Schmidt, “First and foremost we need to know where you live and where you’re employed.”

Officials say that address and place of work are considered to be two vital pieces of information for any sex offender to keep updated at all times.

Which poses the question of why “less” serious offenses, such as failing to register a new tattoo or piercing, are considered a violation at all.

For Officer Schmidt, the registry’s list of regulations may be tedious, but it is necessary to keep sex offenders in check.

“We are not setting them up for failure,” said Schmidt, “we are setting them up for success, but they have to meet us halfway.”

It’s a ‘you-do-the-crime, you-do-the-time’ type of scenario in the mind of a law enforcement officer.

“They’ve kind of put themselves in that place, so yes, they do have more restrictions than the average citizen,” Schmidt said, “but unfortunately, it’s because of the offense they’ve committed.”

While may seem like a burden to a registered sex offender, officials say the rules are there so that the public can remain safe.

Schmidt went on to tell TV6 Investigates that if there were no rules or regulations, he believed more re-offenses would be committed.

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