SIDNEY — Shelby County has more than 200 registered sex offenders: 129 who reside in the county and 85 who are incarcerated in the state’s prison system.
According to Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, the county has the more sex offenders residing in the county than any of the surrounding counties, except Miami County which has 151 registered sex offenders. Auglaize has 68 registered sex offenders; Champaign County, 110; Darke County, 85; and Logan County, 117.
“I’m not sure why we have such a high number,” said Lenhart during his weekly interview. “Forty or 50 years ago, incidents weren’t reported as much as they are today. Pornography was unheard of back then unless you talked about Hustler and Playboy magazines.
“Today those crimes are enforced more. Society has become involved more in reporting the crimes,” he said.
The county has one violent sex offender in prison, said Lenhart. Statewide, there are 1,135 violent sex offenders.
Shelby County also has six registered arson offenders Statewide, there are 1,571 registered arson offenders.
“Two of our arson offenders are also registered sex offenders,” said Lenhart.
Statewide, there are 9,312 registered sex offenders. And residents of the county, city or village or neighborhood where the offender lives has the ability to know where the person lives.
“Every sheriff’s office website has a list of registered sex offenders. People can also sign up to be notified if a registered sex offender lives in their county, town or neighborhood.”
The website shows the person’s photograph and is also linked to the Ohio attorney General’s website to show all registered sex offenders in the state.
“The attorney general and the sheriffs work together and all the information gathered is sent to the AG’s office,” said Lenhart.
The U.S. Marshal’s Office also works with the attorney generals and sheriffs to capture sex offenders and bring victims of sex crimes home to their families.
Shelby County has one deputy who monitors all registered sec offenders in the county, he said.
“We do weekly checks on them,” said Lenhart, “to make sure where they are living is the same as what they registered with out office. We check on where they are working.
“A field officer or road officer can help if the deputy is on vacation,” he said.
Sex offenders are classified in three different tiers.
Tier 3 sex offenders, said Lenhart, are the worst offenders. The person must register with the sheriff’s office every 90 days for the rest of their lives.
Tier 2 sex offenders must register every 180 days for 25 years.
Tier 1 sex offenders must register every 12 months for 15 years.
If the person is homeless or moves from friend’s house to friend’s house every night, they must register at the sheriff’s office each day.
By state statue, he said, a person who is involved in a nonsexual offence against a child — such as a kidnapping — is required to register as a Tier 1 sex offender.
An arson offender is monitored just like a registered sex offender, he said.
Lenhart said his office is often asked questions concerning registered sex offenders in the county. Some of the questions include:
• Why doesn’t the person show up on website? “Their registered time as a sex offender might have expired or it was removed by the court,” said Lenhart.”a juvenile’s name might not be on there if he/she is in jail. Or if the crime occurred when the person was a juvenile, it won’t be on there”
“If the person was 17 years old and they had sex with a 14 or 15-year-old, then the age difference comes into play and they might not be on the registered list. If the people involved are 19 and 15, it might be handled differently. If the sexual offender is over the age of 35 and the kid is under 18, then that’s a Tier 2 offender.”
Lenhart said he was with the Ag’s office when Megan’sLaw went into effect. The Supreme Court revisited the cases of 20,000 offenders to determine how they had to comply with the law. Some had to change how often they reported to the sheriff’s office.
• If the registered sex offender leaves the state on vacation, do they have to register in the county they are visiting? I”f they leave Ohio, they have to report that to the sheriff’s office,” said Lenhart. “Even of they go on vacation, they have to register with that sheriff’s office.”
• Can a sex offender live next to a school or preschool? “They must live more than 1,000 from a school or preschool,” said Lenhart. “If the person wasn’t a registered sex offender when they moved within 1,000 feet of the school, but later commits a crime and is now a registered sex offender, we can get a civil injunction requiring them to move. When they come in to register and ask about moving to a different residence, we will goggle the location to make sure they are not within 1,000 feet of a school or preschool.”.
• Can a village or city’s laws concerning registered sex offenders be stricter than the state’s laws? No.
• Can a registered sex offender go to a place where children are such as school athletic events, library or a public pool? No.
• Can they reside with young children, such as their own children? Yes unless they are under community control, said Lenhart. “You enter a gray area if they are married to someone and they have children.”
Lenhart encourages everyone to sign up for the alerts which notifies them is a sexual offender lives within one mile of their residence.
“And if you observe a sexual offence taking place, please call your local enforcement office,” said Lenhart.
All registered sex offenders — when they are released from jail or prison — know the rules they have to follow.
“We need to educate the public about the rules the sex offenders have to follow,” said Lenhart. “We as a society must protect Shelby County against people who want to do crimes against our kids.”
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.