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Md. sex offender law adds duties to Sheriff's Dept.

July 11, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - For the Washington County Sheriff's Department, recent changes in the Maryland Sex Offender Registry law mean more responsibilities and 50 more offenders to track.

The sheriff's department will use a $30,000 state grant to hire a part-time employee to help register and track additional offenders, said Lt. Art Overcash,who oversees the county's sex offender registry.

The money also will pay for overtime for deputies to verify offenders' addresses.

"They'll be checking on them every week," said Overcash, the department's support services supervisor. "As they change their addresses, it will be checked."

Maryland's law changed July 1.

Before the change, the sheriff's department was responsible for registering the county's child sex offenders once a year. There are 124 registered child sex offenders in the county.

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Now, the department also must register people designated as offenders and sexually violent offenders, Overcash said. There are about 50 offenders and sexually violent offenders living in the county, he said.

Police must reregister all offenders every six months, he said.

Sexually violent offenders are those convicted of sex crimes against adults or otherwise violent sex crimes. Offenders are those convicted of such crimes as fourth-degree sex offense and child kidnapping.

They previously registered through the Maryland Sex Offender Registry Unit, Overcash said.

The groups of sex offenders now must go to the sheriff's department every six months to reregister. They must give their address to police and have their photograph and fingerprints taken so they can be added to the state registry, which publishes their addresses and pictures on the Internet.

The sheriff's department is responsible for telling public schools when a sex offender moves within a mile of a school, he said. The new version of the law requires police to notify "non-public primary and secondary" schools, too.

Another change in the law is that sex offenders have five days instead of seven to notify authorities that they have moved.

Violating the registry law is a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence is three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

The new law makes a second or subsequent offense a felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

In Washington County, there are no registered sexual predators - those deemed most at risk of committing another sexual offense. But, Overcash said that if any moved to the county, the sheriff's department would have to register them every 90 days, a task that had been assigned to the state unit.

Before the law changed, Overcash checked about every three months on the county's child sex offenders to verify that they still lived at their listed addresses.

Now, with the help of the grant, other deputies will assist him. Since the bulk of sex offenders now must register every six months, Overcash said deputies will check registrants about once a month.

Overcash encouraged county residents to call the sheriff's department at 301-791-3020 if they have concerns about a sex offender or believe a registered sex offender has moved.

He said a new hot line, the Maryland Sex Offender Movement Alert Express line, enables residents to request notification when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood. The number is 866-559-8017.

The Maryland Sex Offender Registry Web site address is www.dpscs.state.md.us/onlineservs/sor/

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