The uncertainty arose as the state transitioned to new tracking software this year. In addition to misleading information, the state inadvertently published juvenile sex offender information online for nearly two weeks when the new system was rolled out.
Months into the changeover, The Greenville News found intrastate and interstate discrepancies in sex offender data, revealing a lack of communication between jurisdictions. How is someone supposed to know which information is correct? These are kids like myself who grew up and are literally afraid of what our abusers can do because we know what they did do.
The root of the problem Until this year, South Carolina was among 21 states that used OffenderWatch to track sex offenders, according to Watch Systems, the company that provides OffenderWatch. Within weeks of using SORT and encountering various issues, multiple counties agreed to a contract with OffenderWatch, a paid subscription service that previously was in effect statewide.
The counties signed contracts based on population, adding an expense they didn't have when the state paid for OffenderWatch.
The counties that resumed using OffenderWatch said productivity and efficiency dropped without it because many of the processes were automated, Gauthier said. A benefit of OffenderWatch is that when a sex offender record is updated, the system updates the file in real time for every client in the OffenderWatch network, which includes 3, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
Gauthier said this does not happen with SORT. Sherri Smith told The News. It also provides our investigators in the field the ability to remotely verify and update the status of an offender.
Keel said major advantages with SORT are: SLED maintains the database, can customize the software to South Carolina laws and create functionalities the sheriffs want. However, some of the customized options and improvements will take time to implement. However, the state had to deal with a new problem. A data conversion issue caused information for juvenile sex offenders, more than in the state, to be available for about 12 days in January, Berry said.
The names, pictures, birth dates, addresses and physical descriptions — the same information available for adult offenders — was published. How the registry works More than 15, individuals are labeled as sex offenders in the South Carolina registry, according to SLED records. An individual is considered a sex offender in South Carolina if convicted of certain crimes, including, but not limited to: Kidnapping and trafficking in persons, depending on the details of the case, may also land a person on the sex offender registry.
A judge has discretion to determine if someone found urinating in public would be required to register. A South Carolina sex offender is required to register biannually for life, during the person's birthday month and six months later, according to state law. Some offenders are required to register every three months. Sex offender registries exist, in part, to help the victims and communities keep track of offenders in their neighborhoods.
The registries also serve as a tool for law enforcement. The information on the South Carolina registry comes from local sheriff's offices, Berry said. Laura Hudson, the executive director of South Carolina Crime Victims Council, described the state's sex offender registry as a "passive" system, meaning it's up to residents to find the information.
It is important for the public to be diligent, she said, because sex offenders sometimes can move here from another state and "we don't know it. Fisher also found multiple instances in which data for an offender did not match up across state lines, including in Greenville County.
One man, for example, was labeled as an absconder in Greenville County but compliant in North Carolina. In this case, the Sheriff's Office said it was aware of the individual registering in North Carolina. The South Carolina registry was updated after The News questioned the discrepancy. We encourage anyone who has a question or concern regarding an offender to contact Beverly Pettit at The confusion arises when the information is checked against the state registry.
The SLED site does not indicate the sex offender is an absconder, or noncompliant, because he's in jail, Berry said. But the state website also does not have a section to show that the sex offender is incarcerated, Berry said. Kevin Bobo said in an email. In another example, a man is listed as noncompliant in Spartanburg County and an absconder on the state registry.
So the data matches within the state, although the verbiage is different. That person, however, is registered and compliant in Georgia, according to the national registry. A victim may wonder which one is correct. Fisher said he did not notice these issues when South Carolina used OffenderWatch. Fisher, who lives in Las Vegas, has audited sex offender registries nationwide for about six years. He says there is no method for how he chooses a state to audit. He may see something online or someone may bring an issue to his attention via Facebook.
He said he has built a rapport with the Department of Public Safety in Nevada. He sends them tips about registered sex offenders who are noncompliant in Nevada but compliant in another state. The state researches the tip and contacts the proper jurisdiction.
Law enforcement, most often, believes that they're correct percent. Fisher said he has provided more than tips to law enforcement nationwide. Two other victims were found after I made my report, which meant that my offender took three kids over the course of 12 years and molested them. Each one of these offenders represents a victim or a survivor, depending on where that person is in their life right now.
I know we use these tools, the sex offender registries, because we want to know where our bad guys are. It's not just for concerned parents living in this neighborhood or that neighborhood.