Law Enforcement Agencies Clarify Policies On Sex-Offender Notification

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Conviction of a sex offense can stay with you for life. The stigma of the label "sex offender" is like a tattoo. It won't rub off.

In Arizona and many other states, a person who is convicted of a sex offense is required to register with the local law enforcement.

In the Payson area it is the Gila County Sheriff's Department, which then notifies the Payson Police Department if the offender resides within the town limits.

The offender is photographed, fingerprinted and a blood sample is taken for DNA purposes.

There are a number of criminal acts which, if committed by male or female, adult or juvenile, require a person to register as a sex offender.

They include, but are not limited to: kidnapping of a person under the age of 18, sexual conduct with a minor, child molestation, indecent exposure and sexual assault of a spouse.

Sex offenders receive a rating of level 1, 2 or 3, based on their offense and a number of other criteria. A level 1 rating is generally given to the person who is not considered likely to reoffend.

A level 1 offender can quickly become a level 2, if he or she fails to register a change of address with the local law enforcement. A simple move from one side of town to the other without notification within 72 hours of the move can lead to an arrest and re-evaluation.

Community notification of a level 1 offender's address and place of employment is not normally done.

Such is not the case for a level 2 or 3 offender.

In northern Gila County, the Payson Police Department is responsible for notifying residents of a neighborhood when a convicted sex offender moves into their community. The notification is usually a flyer containing the offender's photograph, exact address as well as a summary of the offender's status and criminal background.

Sheriff's Detective George Ratliff has the responsibility of keeping the records for all sex offenders who live in northern Gila County. This also includes those who have summer homes in the area.

Ratliff also completes the assessments on the offenders and has the power to rank their threat level.

"I go out of my way to make sure they register. I also go out of my way to bring them in if they fail to," Ratliff said, which he had to do recently with a man from Oregon.

In that instance, a level 1 offender who committed his offense in Oregon more than two decades ago now lives in the area as a 43-year-old. At the age of 24, the offender had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl after "luring her into the bathroom," while at a party.

The offender moved to Arizona, lived within the Payson town limits, was registered and then moved into the Star Valley area without reporting his change of address.

Ratliff issued a warrant for his arrest and the offender was bumped up to a level 2 and is now subject to community notification.

There are more than 50 registered sex offenders living in northern Gila County, three of whom are women.

The Payson Police Department under the direction of Sgt. Tom Tieman conducts its neighborhood notifications if a level 2 or 3 moves into a neighborhood.

"We notify everyone within a two block radius, as well as all schools," Tieman said.

For more information on sex offenders, log onto the Department of Public Safety website at www.azsexoffender.com. This site lists all registered sex offenders by name and area code.

The Payson Roundup will identify, in print, all level 3 sex offenders who reside in northern Gila County as they become available from local law enforcement agencies.

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