Keeping Track Of Sex Offenders Is No Easy Task

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Keeping track of 161 registered sex offenders in Gila County is no easy task. For Detective George Ratliff it is a time-consuming job that has to be done.

Every time a new offender moves into the area, Ratliff is responsible in most cases for determining their risk level, registering them, notifying neighbors and most importantly, keeping track of them. To do this Ratliff said he keeps meticulous records and logs of every offender from Globe to Pine.

Recently Ratliff notified a Star Valley neighborhood that level 3 offender Walter Devaney was moving in. Gila County Sheriff Posse members delivered several dozen notifications to neighbors. The purpose of notification is not to terrify neighbors or intimidate the offender, but to keep the public informed, he said.

A check of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office Web site shows that five level 2 and 3 offenders live within Payson town limits. Another 156 offenders are registered countywide.

In Arizona, there are approximately 14,500 registered sex offenders, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. However, this number includes level 1 offenders, which the state is not required to notify the public on.

Anyone convicted of a sex crime that is released from jail, put on probation or moves to Arizona must register his or her whereabouts with the county within 10 days. Sex crimes range from, but are not limited to, sexual conduct with a minor, child prostitution and sex trafficking.

If an offender moves to another city or changes address, they must notify Ratliff within 72 hours.

Failure to do so can raise an offender’s risk level and is a felony.

An offender’s risk level — 1, 2 or 3 — is determined by a 19-question risk assessment screening profile that examines specific factors contributing to recidivism.

Questions include the number of victims, their relationship to the victim, the use of force, alcohol and drug use and employment history.

Devaney was convicted of child abuse and indecent exposure. The victims were his ex-girlfriend’s two children. Based on this and other criterion Devaney was assigned a level 3.

Level 3 is a high or re-offends risk, level 2, an intermediate risk and level 1, a low risk.

All criminal justice agencies use the same standardized Arizona Risk Assessment, however, if a law enforcement agency discovers information, which affects an offender’s risk level, they can recommended a higher or lower level.

Ratliff said he thinks notifications should be sent out for all levels of sex offenders.

Countrywide, no two states are required to follow the same assessment test or even laws regarding notification of sex offenders.

In Arizona, an offender is required to register for life. During registration, an offender is photographed, fingerprinted and a blood sample taken.

In addition, all sex offenders are required to get a new driver’s license every year. This is so Ratliff has an updated picture and address of the offender and if an officer pulls them over, the officer will know they are an offender.

A detective for the last 14 years, Ratliff said he takes his job of registering sex offenders very seriously. It can take him five or six days to register an offender depending on what state they are coming from. Getting information from out of state agencies is the most time-consuming part, he said.

After an offender is registered, Ratliff said he does not bother them unless they mess up, at which time “I will come looking for you.”

Citizens are urged not to threaten, intimidate or harass a sex offender, as such behavior is not tolerated.

“Most have paid their debt to society,” Ratliff said.

A complete list of sex offenders and their addresses, including sex offenders in Payson and surrounding communities, and level of risk assessment can be found at www.co.gila.az.us.

The facts

• Sex offenders come from all occupations and socio-economic groups. They can be male or female, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, religious or non-religious, educated or uneducated, and from any race.

• Although some sex offenders are strangers and stalkers, many know the victim as a family member, friend or neighbor. They win a child’s trust and then take advantage of that trust.

• Potential victims are likely to be children that are poor, neglected, loners or runaways.

• Many pedophiles seek out mothers of single parent families for victimizing children.

• Sex offenders often like playgrounds and other places where children congregate.

• Most sex offenders groom their victims before any crime.

• Offenders may position themselves to meet children by:

• Creating playground environments where victims have access to toys, games, and other things that will later be traded for sex.

• Enticing with attention, affection, gifts, promises, and providing alcohol and pornography to lower inhibitions.

• Participating in activities with teens, often excluding other adults, or trying to get teens into situations where no adults are present.

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