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National sex offender registry in the works

As Harrison and other counties throughout Indiana iron out glitches in computer programs that register sex and violent offenders with the state’s database, Congress is working on creating a national database of offenders.
U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced Dru’s Law (the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act of 2005) that would allow the public to access the national registry via the Internet.
‘Any crime is disturbing, but those that victimize our nation’s children are particularly reprehensible,’ said U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) in a press release. Lugar is co-sponsor of the bill.
‘I believe that children are our most precious resource, deserving of the protections we, as caring adults, are committed to afford them,’ he said.
Dru’s Law is named for Dru Sjodin. The 22-year-old woman was abducted and murdered in Grand Forks, N.D., in 2003. The suspect, who had served time in Minnesota for rape, was released six months before Sjodin was abducted.
The bill would also require states to monitor high-risk offenders who are released after serving their full sentence.
Lugar said that’s because a recent study found that 72 percent of high-risk sex offenders commit another crime within six years of being released.
All states have sex offender registries, but Dru Law’s would compile a national registry through the U.S. Attorney General’s office.
In Indiana, Zachary’s Law went into effect Jan. 1, 2003. It’s named for Zachary Snider, a 10-year-old Cloverdale boy who was murdered in 1993 by a convicted child molester.
Officer Bryan Byrne of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. has registered sex and violent offenders in Harrison County since February.
According to state statute, offenders are required to register with all local law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction in the area within seven days after taking residence in Indiana.
And it doesn’t end there. Bryne said there are other circumstances that require offenders to register:
* If they plan to reside in an area for a minimum of seven days;
* If they work or carry on a vocation in Indiana, either full- or part-time, for more than 14 consecutive days in a calendar year;
* If they work or carry on a vocation in Indiana, either full- or part-time, for a total of any 30 days in a calendar year;
* If they enroll or plan to enroll on a full- or part-time basis in any public or private educational institution in the state.
‘Failure to knowingly or intentionally register is a class D felony,’ Byrne said. ‘However, it is a class C felony if the offender has a prior unrelated offense.’
As part of the registering process, Byrne said he takes profile and frontal pictures of the offender, plus pictures of any identifying marks, such as tattoos.
Offenders are required to re-register every 365 days. Byrne said he re-registered at least 12 offenders in one week earlier this month and completed seven or eight new registrations during that same time period, mostly offenders who recently were released from prison in Kentucky.
During the process of re-registering, Byrne said he verifies the offender’s address as well as their appearance.
The process takes about 30 to 35 minutes, not counting the time it takes Byrne to enter information into the database. Persons needing to register or re-register are urged to schedule an appointment with the sheriff’s department by calling 738-2195.
Two databases are maintained of Indiana offenders: and Byrne said the sheriff’s association Web site is not current, due to software problems. There are actually more offenders residing in Harrison County than are shown on that database.
He said the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute’s site has more offenders listed than those who currently live here. Some of those listed are still held in correctional facilities, Byrne said.
Persons who don’t have access to the Internet but want to know about offenders in the county can contact Byrne. ‘I can give them a limited amount of information,’ he said. ‘What I can give on the phone is the same thing they can find on the Internet.’
While a national database would be useful, Byrne said, there are differences in state laws. For example, in Indiana, offenders whose victims are 12 or younger must register for life, while those whose victims are 13 or older are only required to register for 10 years.
Offenders who are registered here but then relocate outside Harrison County are required to notify agencies here of their new address.
Byrne said he would appreciate information about any offenders who may be living, working or attending school in the county who are not registered.
‘We need to know about these people,’ he said. ‘Crimes against our children are ridiculous.’