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Registry keeps tabs on sex offenders

With the national spotlight recently being shined on the case ofa woman found after being held captive for 18 years by a convictedsex offender, Lincoln County officials are proud to say they’reworking ahead of the game on sex offenders here at home.

There are currently 45 registered sex offenders living inLincoln County, Capt. Dustin Bairfield said, and currently all ofthem are compliant with guidelines for sex offenderregistration.

“The reason we keep up with these things is to let people knowif they live by them or are around where they are going to be,”said Bairfield, adding that, nationally, sex offenders tend to movearound a lot.

Sex offenders have guidelines to follow, Bairfield said,including not living within 1,500 feet of a school or child carefacility, and they are not allowed to work or volunteer in anyfield that exposes them to children. They also have to notifypotential employers of their status as a sex offender.

The only exception to the rule, Bairfield said, is that peoplewho have lived in one place since before July 1, 2006, can staywhere they are even if they’re in violation.

There are measures currently in place that allow people to knowwho their neighbors are, including Lincoln County’s online resourceat www.sor.mdps.state.ms.us. But sheriff’s department officials areworking on reaching out to the public to help keep offenders on thestraight and narrow.

“We want to get the community involved to help us keep track ofwhere these people are. Community involvement is important,”Bairfield said. “In the future, if a person moves here, we’d liketo be able to send some kind of notification, like a postcard, soyour neighbors would be aware of your standing.”

Currently a sex offender has to check back in every 90 days andupdate his or her address and photo on the record with thesheriff’s office. They also are required to give a fingerprint, aswell as a DNA sample, and the DNA goes into a database. Also, theoffender’s vehicle type is registered, and his or her employer hasto verify that he or she is, in fact, working for the business heor she is registered under.

“As far as the way to stay on top of this is that we need tostay proactive in keeping up with them,” Bairfield said.

Bairfield added that in the future, sheriff’s departmentofficials will be visiting offenders’ addresses to make surethey’re registering accurate ones.

Mississippi has 5,059 sex offenders registered, and in thisstate a sex offense conviction carries a lifetime registration,Bairfield said.

Meanwhile, just because a neighbor has been convicted of a sexoffense doesn’t mean people should be alarmed. Bairfield said thesheriff’s department can’t advise details of an offender’s case,but neighbors and co-workers can call with concerns.

“If you’re unsure you can always call up here, and if you’reworried because you have small children, we’ll be able to tell youif the offender is or is not a child molester, or if the charge wasdate rape, or whatever,” he said. “If you look at the charges onthe Internet and you’re not aware of what the term means, call hereand we can help.”

And the nature of a sex offense is one that is documented inpopular media such as TV series and movies, as well as all sorts oftrue crime books, but Bairfield said the mindset will always be amystery to him.

“It’s kind of like an arsonist – I’ve never figured out whatmakes a person set a house on fire and watch it burn, and it’s thesame thing with a sex offense,” he said. “It’s hard for me tounderstand what would make someone want to commit this kind ofcrime against someone else.”