SIDNEY — Do you know who your neighbors are?
That’s the question Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart posed this week in a new weekly column that will be appearing in the Sidney Daily News. Lenhart discussed sexual offenders who are living in the county.
“You need to look at who’se in your neighborhood,” said Lenhart. “You can go to the Sheriff’s Office website and look under the sexual offenders tab. You can put in your address, city and zip code and it will show who lives within 1,000 feet of your residence (if they are a sexual offender).”
Lenhart said a deputy is assigned to check on all registered offenders once a week to make sure they are following the rules of where they work, where they live and whether they are doing what they are supposed to or not.
The sexual registry list began in 1994, said Lenhart, when Jacob Wetterling’s law went into effect. Jacob was an 11-year-old boy who was abducted at gunpoint. The case was never solved.
The law put minimum standards in all states for sexual offenders, said Lenhart.
“In Ohio, this is part of the Sheriff’s Office duties,” said Lenhart. “We want you to know who is living next to you.”
Lenhart said a person can check the sheriff’s office’s websites in all 88 Ohio counties to see where the registered sex offenders live.
“If you live in Auglaize County, but work in Shelby County, you can find out if a sexual offender lives within 1,000 feet of where you work. If your babysitter lives here, you can find out who’s in their neighborhood.”
Sexual offenders are divided up into three tiers of offenders, said Lenhart.
Tier 3 offenders, which are the worst offenders, must register for life with the Sheriff’s Officer every 90 days.
Tier 2 offenders must register every 6 months for 25 years if they are an adult. Juvenile offenders must register every 6 months for 20 years.
Tier 1 offenders must register once a year for 20 years if they are an adult. Juvenile offenders must register once a year for 10 years.
“If they move, they have to report it to us,” said Lenhart. “If they get a new job, they have to report it to us. They have to tell us what kind of car they drive and what the license plate number is.
“If a Tier 3 offender moves into a neighborhood, we send a mailer to the neighbors which includes the person’s picture and what type of offense they committed,” said Lenhart.
In Shelby County, there are 114 registered adult sexual offenders and eight juvenile sexual offenders. Eleven sexual offenders have moved into the county from out of state. There are 13 who are currently incarcerated at the Shelby County Jail or at an Ohio state penitentiary.
Lenhart said there are 224 total sexual offenders in Shelby County, which includes those of live here, move here, are in jail and ones who are deceased.
Lenhart also shared some statistics about sexual assault victims:
• More than half of the rape and sexual assault victims are assaulted within one mile of their home.
• Eighty percent of everyone has at least one sexual offender living within 1 mile of them.
• Forty-five percent of all victims know their attacker.
Lenhart said three convicted arsonists also live in Shelby County. They have to follow rules which are similar to those of a sexual offender.
The rules governing sexual offenders has been amended several times, said Lenhart. The latest change was the in November when voters approved Megan’s Law, which deals with an offender moving into a neighborhood and the 1,000 foot rule.
“I urge every citizen to go to their computer and pull up an Sheriff’s Office website in the state and take a look at their sexual offender roster,” said Lenhart. “if you feel you need to find out who’s in your neighborhood.”
Lenhart said residents an also request an email be sent to them if something changes in their neighborhood.
“You should check when you move into a neighborhood to see who’s living there. Or see who’s living near a school that your child attends,” said Lenhart.
The management of the roster of sexual offenders for each county is updated by SCORN, the Ohio sexual offender registration network.
“If nothing else works, then pick up your phone and call our dispatch for the information,” said Lenhart.
Lenhart said in his five decades in law enforcement, sexual offenders, especially tier 3 offenders, there is no such thing as a cure.
“They are always going to be out there,” said Lenhart. “If they are on the run and our deputies are chasing them down to arrest them and bring them to court, that means they are out of compliance with the rules and they’re hunting (for a victim).
Lenhart also shared that an inmate, who was taken to the jail Monday afternoon following sentencing, overdosed in the jail Tuesday morning. The inmate was taken to Wilson Health and then transported to another medical facility.
Another issue Lenhart addressed was why snow levels are not used in Shelby County.
“There are variable weather conditions in Shelby County, especially in the south part of the county near the Shelby/Miami county line. We are in the snow belt and farther north in the county you’ll see slush and ice.
“From the west to the east side of the county, there’s also a variable of conditions. I am confident that the people who live and work in Shelby County know when they should or shouldn’t go out.”
All Shelby County schools superintendents, said Lenhart, call the Sheriff’s Office at 5 a.m. on bad weather days to check on the road conditions.
“That’s why some schools have schools and others have 2-hour delays,” said Lenhart, of how the superintendents make their decision on school for the day.
Lenhart said residents don’t need the government telling them to stay home.
“In my hometown of Jackson Center, Airstream had a two-hour delay,” said Lenhart. “If we have conditions like the blizzard of 1978 or 1979, I will bring everything to a screeching halt, including Interstate 75.
“But this is normal Ohio weather and it’s a judgment call of the schools and individuals going out every day,” said Lenhart.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.