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The state is vigilant about sex offenders

Twenty years ago, the state began requiring sex offenders to register with the State Police so their whereabouts would be known. In 1998, the State Police put this information online.

This system has been helpful. A sweep by law enforcement officers checked 480 of the roughly 1,700 people on the registry and found that 95 percent of the ex-convicts were in compliance.

Only 25 arrests were made for improper registration.

But what does society do about the hardcore cases of likely re-offenders?

It watches.

This week, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin administered oaths of office to eight new officers who will monitor sex offenders as part of a special unit in the parole services agency.

Five will replace officers who have left the unit and three will fill positions that were created to keep up with the growing number of offenders.

The unit already oversees more than 400 adult and juvenile sex offenders, and the number will rise as more sex offenders finish serving their time and leave prison. Judges assign offenders to such supervision upon their release if they feel it is needed.

Each officer is assigned 10 to 15 cases in the sex offender unit. That is well below the load for other parole officers, who can have as many as 85 cases.

But the workload isn't lighter. The officers in this unit watch their parolees more closely than others are watched. This means polygraph tests two or three times a year and as many as five home visits each week.

"There's a lot of driving and they stay very busy," said Caren Bills, deputy director of probation services. "They're out there banging on doors at all hours of the day. Christmas Day, they're out there.

"You almost become a part of their family, you see them so much. It's your job to stay all up in their business."

Such supervision is expensive, but it is a price paid in dollars and not in the torment that further victims might suffer in its absence. 


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