Monitoring lax on D.C. sex offenders

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Local,Crime,Scott McCabe

District officials didn't check 2/3 of registrants

Two-thirds of the District's nearly 1,000 sex offenders have not been actively monitored, leaving area residents more vulnerable to future sex crimes.

While Virginia and Maryland authorities visit the homes of registered offenders at least twice a year to verify their whereabouts, officials in D.C. do not conduct compliance checks at the residences of about 660 sex offenders -- including convicted rapists, child molesters and purveyors of kiddie porn.

  
JurisdictionPopulationOffendersPer 100,000 residents
Prince George's County863,42083797
Montgomery County971,77737038
Washington618,000989160
Fairfax County1,081,72645142
Loudoun County312,31111737
Arlington County207,6278139


Two agencies work on the District's sex offender registry -- the D.C. police and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

Up until Friday night, both agencies told The Washington Examiner that the other is responsible for keeping track of the offenders that are no longer on probation or parole. Sunday night, CSOSA spokesman Len Sipes said he was wrong, and that his agency has responsibility for all 989 registered sex offenders.

The confusion has made it easier for District sex offenders to escape being monitored.

» Four offenders gave 300 Indiana Ave. NW as their home address. That happens to be the location of D.C. police headquarters. The police hadn't noticed, and both agencies said Friday that they don't know where the four men are.

» Sex offenders who live out of state can falsely claim residency in D.C. and escape being monitored and listed back in their own state. That was the case for Andre McGant, a Rockville child sex offender who coached at a private school in Montgomery County until last month, when his status was discovered and he was fired. The registries aim to reduce risk by informing residents of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. A 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Justice found convicted sex offenders are four times more likely than the general population to commit a sex crime.

Tracking offenders and ensuring the registries are accurate are key parts of preventing future crimes.

The federal Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency said up until Friday night that it was only responsible for monitoring the District sex offenders currently on probation or parole.

With the assistance of the U.S. marshals, CSOSA personnel did residence checks on 327 offenders in January and February. Initially the addresses of about 40 of the 327 could not be verified, Sipes said.

Arrest warrants were issued for seven absconders, including a man whom investigators tracked down through Facebook to South Carolina, Sipes said. All but three of those being sought have since been located, he said.

In Virginia, state troopers are required to visit registered sex offenders at work and home at least four times a year, said Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police. That is still the case even if the person is homeless, such as an offender who lives under a bridge on the James River in Richmond, Geller said. In Maryland, Montgomery County police verify the compliance of all of their registered sex offenders, visiting most of them four times annually. Homeless offenders in the county must report to police on a weekly basis.

In the District, however, no one conducts routine compliance checks on most of the city's sex offenders.

"CSOSA has primary authority for monitoring individuals on the sex offender registry," D.C. police spokesman Gwendolyn Crump said in a release Friday.

When CSOSA reports that an offender is not in compliance, D.C. police will investigate and serve warrants, police said.

At-large D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson, chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee, was surprised to learn that the sex offenders were not being checked at their homes.

"If there's no follow-up, compliance will drop off," Mendelson said. "There needs to be checks."

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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