Who's on your street?

Published 9:49 am Monday, June 6, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
In these days of home-brewed drugs, terrorists and sexual predators it is hard to know who your neighbors are.
According to the Alabama Bureau of investigation there are 11 registered sex offenders in Atmore and according to Sgt. Monte McGougin, of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, there are 52 registered sex offenders in Escambia County.
Luckily the Atmore Police department and the Sheriff's Department have measures in place to protect area residents.
Detective Chuck Brooks is in charge of sex offender registry in Atmore.
"We're notified ahead of time by the Department of Public Safety if a sex offender has been released in our area," Brooks said "At that time that person would, if they live in Atmore, come to me. If they live in the county they would register with the Sheriff's office."
The state gives police a description of the crime committed. They pass that information to the public using fliers.
"We pass out these fliers to houses; we have to notify all the people within so many feet and we pass them out to all the neighbors," Brooks said. "We also notify all public and private schools and childcare places within three miles of the offender."
The fliers have information about the offender, the offender's picture and description, birthdate and address.
According to Brooks Alabama offenders usually register when they move to town, but some people from other states try to skirt the law.
"We haven't had one from Alabama fail to register with us, but we've had two to come from Florida that we know of," Brooks said. "I bring them in and explain to them what we're going to do and get the forms – they usually leave town after that."
McGougin is in charge of registering sex offenders in the county.
"I have to check the offender and make sure there is not a school or daycare within 1,000 feet," McGougin said. "You have to make sure that the sexual predators don't have children living in the residence with them. Whenever you get out of prison you can not have a child living with you. If the children were living there before the crime and they are not the victim they can continue to live there. If the offender's victim was not a child they have made a law where the child can live there if he is married to the child's mother."
The department also checks in on the offender if there is a complaint.
"Pretty much if they move somewhere and someone tells us they are or aren't living there we check up on that," McGougin said. "We have made several arrests."
The Sheriff's Department also takes an extra step for public safety.
"A few months ago we took a list of the sex offenders in Escambia County and all, but one female were living were they were supposed to and she had moved to Santa Rosa County (Florida) and registered there," McGougin said. "I try to do that once a year. I'm not like a probation officer, I don't check up on these guys every month. The only job I have to do is register them here in the state of Alabama and pass out fliers. There could be a sexual offender living in our county that I don't know about, but it's only because they have not registered."
Most sex offenders in Escambia County are type 2 offenders. A type 2 offender has committed what was once called "statutory rape" or consensual sex with a person under the legal age.
"We've got very few violent sex offenders," McGougin said.
According to Brooks, being informed is the best way to avoid a sexual predator.
"First of all, you want to make sure you know what this person is charged with," Brooks said, noting that not all offenders are violent. "You definitely want to keep your children away from any sex offenders."
One way to keep informed about sexual predators in your neighborhood is to check the ABI's sex offender registry website at http://www.dps.state.al.us/public/abi/system/so/county.asp

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