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Island County program helping track sex offenders
A state-funded program is proving invaluable to Island County law enforcement in verifying the location of registered sex offenders.
Last month, Island County received a $72,500 state grant to help offset the cost for detectives to track down and verify the residences of sex offenders.
In light of recent state and federal budget cuts, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said that the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) “lobbied really hard” to keep the sex offender verification funds in the budget because of its effectiveness.
“We were concerned it would go away,” Brown said.
Prior to the program, Brown said, registered offenders were simply required to self-report or respond to mailed correspondence. This led to frequent failure to report as well as offenders reporting an incorrect residence.
Island County has approximately 89 reported resident registered sex offenders; three Level III offenders, which require face-to-face verification every three months; five Level II offender which require verification every six months; and 71 Level I offenders who must be verified annually.
Now in it’s fourth year, the program continues to prove effective in reducing the chance that sex offenders are mis-reporting or failing to report their whereabouts, according to Dawn Larsen, director of projects for WASPC.
To fund the program statewide, $4.8 million was allocated to verify the addresses and residency of all registered sex offenders and kidnapping offenders.
All of Washington’s 39 counties participate in the optional program, Larsen said. Each county is allotted monies based on the number of sex offenders within its borders.
The program was initiated in response to the 2007 abduction, rape and murder of 12-year-old Zinna Linnik of Tacoma.
Terapon Dang Adhahn, who was convicted of the crime, was previously convicted of a sex crime but was considered a “low risk” Level I sex offender. The lack of proper registry reporting factored into the crime, leading to a statewide debate on sex offender monitoring, according to news reports.
The problem was, Larsen said, as a sex offender “I can go in and tell you I live wherever, and I’m living in a completely different place.”
After the Linnik case, she said, Washington law enforcement leaders created a work group to address sex offender monitoring.
In the first year of the face-to-face verification program in 2010, “the number of folks who weren’t where they said they were dropped in half.”
“It works well,” Larsen said. “It makes monitoring so much easier.