What it means to register as a sex offender

Periodically, the sheriff’s log will feature entries regarding sex offender residence checks.

This past December, deputies completed compliance reports for four registered offenders living on Lopez Island, prompting readers to ask: Why aren’t you covering the presence of these offenders in our communities?

Your island papers are committed to reporting on sexual assault charges filed and cases tried in San Juan County. One of our duties as the paper of record is to inform the public about those accused of a crime, and that includes providing a timeline, context and narrative of the alleged incidents. However, not every sex offender who is registered here was convicted of that crime in county nor does every notice of updated registration mean a recent crime was committed.

Here is how the sex offender registry process works:

The Community Protection Act of 1990 was created to give notice to residents of Washington state about sex offenders who are, or will be, residing in their community. Providing the address of these people allows those nearby to protect themselves and their children.

Someone convicted of a sexually violent crime must register for the rest of their life. If the conviction was for a non-violent sexual offense they will register for the duration of their parole supervision plus 10 years. Juveniles adjudicated for any sex crime will register for 10 years past their supervision.

The majority of offenders are classified as Level 1, meaning they are likely first-time offenders, at a low risk to re-offend and will not show up on public databases unless they are non-compliant or transient. Level 2 individuals have a moderate risk of re-offending, usually had more than one victim and conducted long-term abuse. Level 3 offenders are considered to have a high risk to re-offend and often have committed prior crimes of violence. The sheriff’s office will mail postcards when someone with this designation moves to a new address.

There are more than 12,000 sex offenders in our state, and San Juan County has 26 offenders at the lowest risk level and five that are classified as intermediate risks. Statewide there are over 2,600 unregistered offenders being actively pursued by law enforcement.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office participates in the OffenderWatch program, which is a database that is updated throughout the day as offender addresses and photos are changed. Go to https://bit.ly/2T9lRbo to view the home addresses, conviction information, defining physical characteristics and photos of registered offenders.

The Sheriff’s Office maintains a book of all level one offenders in the county. If anyone is interested in seeing that information, call Dan Seaton at 360-378-4151 to set up an appointment.

Every three months, sheriff’s deputies are required to verify the address of offenders and take new photos as part of compliance checks. So when that shows up in our sheriff’s log, it doesn’t mean a crime has been committed.