DOBSON — Registered sex offenders in the county received a knock on their doors Monday afternoon and were greeted by deputies with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals.
Officers were there to check in on registered sex offenders to make sure they were in compliance with all requirements. Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson said the U.S. Marshall Service’s fugitive unit that deals with sex predators assisted with the operation. He said they were able to assist the sheriff’s office in any instances where people had moved out of county or state.
“This is something they do in other counties, too,” Atkinson explained. He said his office had been trying to coordinate with the U.S. Marshals office for a few months to conduct the operation.
The sheriff’s office paired up one of its deputies with a marshal and sent five such teams to different areas of the county to visit the most recently listed residences of all registered sex offenders. Atkinson said there are 84 sex offenders in the county, but 14 of those were in custody elsewhere, leaving 70 people for officers to visit.
“It’s a higher number than usual,” Atkinson said of the number of sex offenders. He said there were around 65 to 70 offenders in residence in the county when the office conducted its last visit in October.
The teams left a little after 2 p.m. to check on people and completed the operation sometime after 9 p.m. Atkinson said there will likely be four charges as a result of the operation, three absconders and one address change violation.
“With the number we’ve got, we expect violations any time we check on them,” he remarked.
More charges could be filed in the coming days, because officers have to return to some houses where they could not get in contact with the residents.
The sheriff’s office regularly checks in with sex offenders at Halloween, but they know to expect that. Of Monday’s operation, Atkinson said, “We just thought we’d pick out a day to go check. They had absolutely no idea this was coming.”
Registered sex offenders are required to inform authorities any time they move, and the sheriff’s office must keep a current photo on file and know where they are working. Each offender may also have additional restrictions set by a judge.
“Each one has a specific set of conditions,” Atkinson explained.
He said most of the time when the sheriff’s office performs these operations, it winds up with two or three charges. Those mostly have to do with technicalities such as no recent picture or address changing. He said most people are good about updating information with the sheriff’s office, because they know they will be charged for the least action.
“There is zero tolerance for, ‘Hey, I moved, I’ll be in next week (to report it),’” Atkinson gave as an example.
If a person is found to not be living at the residence they have listed, then officers do a follow-up investigation and can issue warrants. There are many requirements for registered sex offenders. If a sex offender moves, he or she has to report the new address to the sheriff’s office within three days. He or she also must report any change in academic status or employment. Also, sex offenders are prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a public or non-public school or child care center. Offenders are also restricted from some other areas such as children’s museums, nurseries or playgrounds. In Surry County, they are restricted from visiting county parks or parks in Elkin or Mount Airy.
Atkinson said some of the people on the sex offender registry took part in a consensual act but were arrested because the victim missed the age limit by a year or so. “But a lot of these people are true predators,” he remarked.
He said many of the people have committed crimes against minors.
“One of our most important jobs is to protect people who can’t protect theirselves,” said Atkinson, speaking of children.
Contact Meghann Evans at 719-1952 or email@example.com.