SIDNEY — You open your mailbox on a bright and sunny day and you look at a postcard from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. The sunshine might dim a little as you look at the face on the postcard and realize that a tier 3 sex offender has moved into your neighborhood. Or within a 1 mile circle of your residence.
“We have 126 registered sex offenders in Shelby County,” said Shelby County John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “There’s another 75 sex offenders in jail or a penitentiary.”
Nationwide, said Lenhart, there are 740,000 sex offenders and 1,900 of them live in the state of Ohio.
“The list also include registered arsonists and we have four of them in the county,” said Lenhart. “It also includes violent criminals but we have none in Shelby County. There are 815 violent criminals in Ohio.”
The surrounding counties also have many registered sex offenders. By county, Logan has 116; Champaign, 108; Auglaize, 69; Miami, 152; and Montgomery, 1,037 registered sex offenders.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act — adopted after the murder of Adam Walsh, 6, in 1981 — along with Megan’s Law, helps law enforcement in their fight to keep children safe. Megan’s Law was named after Megan Kanka, 7, who was raped and killed by a known sex offender who lived across the street from her family in New Jersey.
“Both of these laws have been revised over the years,” said Lenhart. “In 2003, Megan’s Law was revised so a sex offender couldn’t live within a 1,000 feet of a school, preschool or daycare.”
All sex offenders are required to be registered and the Sexual Offenders Registration Notification (SORN) allows for law enforcement to notify neighbors when a Tier 3 sex offender moves into the neighborhood. The Sheriff’s Office isn’t required to notify residents if a Tier 1 or Tier 2 sex offender moves into the neighborhood.
Shelby County Deputy Cathy Boettiger’s job is to monitor all registered sex offenders in the county and make sure they are following the rules.
“There are three tiers of registration,” said Boettiger. “Tier 1 offenders must register one time a year for 15 years. Tier 2 offenders must register two times a year for 25 years.
“Tier 3 offenders must register for their entire lifetime,” she said .”They must register every 90 days.”
“A tier 3 offender is the worst,” said Lenhart. “The court system sets the tier level, we (Sheriff’s Office) doesn’t.
Lenhart said Boettiger has taken eight sex offenders back to court for not following the rules.
When a person is convicted as a sex offender, he/she must go the Sheriff’s Office and register as a sex offender.
“If they are going on vacation outside Shelby County for longer than three days, they must notify us of their plans,” said Boettiger. “Then I contact other counties, states or countries where they will be visiting.”
Boettiger said one country — Thailand — refuses to let registered sex offenders into their country.
“There was one person who traveled to Thailand once a year,” said Boettiger. “He had to have permission from Thailand to visit the country. In 2016, they refused the request.”
She also checks the residence to make sure the person is still living at the address on file; visits their place of employment to ensure they still have a job; and visit a school if they are attending classes there.
“All information has to be monitored,” said Boettiger. “I usually check on each one three to four times a year,” where she knocks on the person’s door at their home.
A road deputy, said Lenhart, usually helps Boettiger with all the visits to residences, work and school.
“Seventy-five percent of those registered are hard to monitor,” said Lenhart. “They can’t get a job or they don’t have living quarters. We have two homeless people who are registered sex offenders.”
The two people have to register every day at the Sheriff’s Office.
Lenhart said Boettiger has worked with U.S. Marshals and Interpol when a registered sex offender fails to come back to the county.
Each time the person comes to the jail to update their information as required by law, Boettiger also updates their photo, does a criminal background check, asks where they are employed, includes any new tattoos to the person’s description, who they are living with and any social media information such as email address, Instagram address, Facebook account, etc.
Lenhart said social media is monitored to make sure the offender isn’t making contact with a teen or young child.
“Eighty-nine percent of teens own a smartphone,” said Lenhart. “Forty-one percent of them are on Snapchat. Another 22 percent are on Instagram. Only 15 percent of them are on Facebook. Forty-five percent of victims of sexual offenders are under 12 years old.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a tip line for people to call about possible sexual crimes, he said. “In 2018, they had 18 million reports,” said Lenhart. “The calls dealt with sexual violations, sextation and child sex trafficking.”
Lenhart urges parents to check their child’s social media use”If you have any issues or concern, contact the Sheriff’s Office or police department,” said Lenhart.
Information about all registered sex offenders can be found on the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office website, https://co.shelby.oh.us/sheriffs-office/about-the-sheriffs-office/. Click on Jail & Offender Info, then sex offender info. After agreeing to a disclaimer, you will be directed to a page where you can “click here to search for offenders in your area.” There’s also an option to find all registered sex offenders in Shelby County.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.