Number Of Sex Offenders Increases In Gila County

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According to Detective George Ratliff of the Gila County Sheriff's Department, there are more sex offenders living in the Payson area than in previous years.

A check of the Department of Public Safety Web site shows 12 registered sex offenders living within Payson town limits.

"Anyone convicted of a sex crime and released from jail or put on probation (in Arizona) must register within 10 days of release or placement on probation," Ratliff said. "If a sex offender moves from one city, county or town to another, or one address to another, they must also notify me.

"They have 90 days to make that notification, but if they fail to do it, they are also guilty of a class 4 felony, and their risk assessment level could go higher."

Ratliff said that it would not be inconceivable for a "register only" offender to go as high as a level 2 or 3 depending on the re-evaluation from the risk assessment test.

Ratliff also uses CVSA, or Comprehensive Voice Stress Analysis, to help determine the truthfulness of statements made by registrants during the risk assessment evaluation.

He said it is a very effective tool in his opinion.

"I'm not real satisfied or confident in results from polygraph tests, but CVSA is an excellent tool in my opinion," he said. "It uses the same technology as the FBI and other prominent law enforcement agencies use, and I have great confidence in its accuracy."

Ratliff added that he has had great success using voice analysis in all areas regarding interviewing suspects and victims in sexual offenses.

He said, "I had this one case where a juvenile was alleging that a parent had molested them. I tested the parent and found no abnormalities in the voice patterns."

"But," Ratliff said, "When I tested the juvenile, there was noticeable variation in the voice patterns and I was able to determine, and get a confession that the parent had not molested the juvenile and the juvenile just wanted to ‘put a scare into' the parent as revenge for being punished."

Ratliff said the use of CVSA and other technology tools by the sheriff's department has made it possible for him to better categorize sex offenders, and consequently better protect the community to the best of his ability.

"I only have two level 3 offenders living in the area, both are transients, but they have to report to me every 90 days for a review," he said.

As far as there being "more" sex offenders living in Payson than in previous years, Ratliff said he is not overly concerned with that statistic.

He said, "Yes, there are a greater number of sex offenders living in Payson, but I have more countywide as well, not just in Payson."

Currently, there are 155 registered sex offenders living in Gila County, according to figures provided by Ratliff.

Ratliff said he attributes the increase in resident sex offenders to the fact that the population in Gila County, and indeed Payson, has risen over the last few years.

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, Gila County had a population of approximately 53,000 in 2006, compared to just over 51,000 in 2000, an increase of about 3 percent.

Ratliff said he feels the increase in resident sex offenders is commensurate with population growth, and does not constitute a concern for the community.

He said, "Whenever a sex offender moves into the community, (the Sheriff's department) send out notification to the surrounding neighborhoods."

Ratliff said he is hopeful the new regulations included in the "Adam Walsh" law will make it easier to keep track of sex offenders.

Ratliff said the department is putting together a Web site to keep community residents informed as to the levels and locations of sex offenders in Payson and surrounding communities.

In Arizona, a person convicted of a sex crime is required to be registered as a sex offender for the duration of their lifetime, according to A.R.S. 13-3821A.

Ratliff warns against overreacting to the presence of sex offenders living in the community.

He said, "While we are obviously concerned with the safety of the community above all, we also will not tolerate harassment of resident registered sex offenders.

"The way I look at it is, they have served their time and paid their debt to society, unless they give me a reason to suspect them of something, I am not going to unnecessarily harass them."

A complete list of sex offenders and their addresses, including sex offenders in Payson and surrounding communities, and level of risk assessment can be accessed on the DPS Web site at DPS.gov.

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