DANVILLE — The information is in black and white: More than 200 men and woman convicted as sex offenders live in Danville and Vermilion County. And just as staggering are the crimes of which they are convicted.
An 84-year-old man labeled a sexual predator after crimes in DuPage County against a 4-year-old. A 24-year-old man convicted in Cook County of the attempted sexual assault of a 1-year-old baby. Six people convicted of various incidents of child pornography.
Those sex offenders and the others have been through the legal system and are serving their sentences under the watchful eye of both the city and county law enforcement and a continually knowledgeable general public.
And while most of the criminals work to remain complaint with stringent state and federal laws intended to keep track of them, enforcing those laws is a continuing battle for local law enforcement.
As of mid-week, Vermilion County had a total of 90 adult sex offenders and 11 juvenile sex offenders under monitoring of some nature. Within Danville city limits, another 166 sex offenders are registered with also 11 juvenile sex offenders.
The Sex Offenders Registration Act demands that convicted sex offenders register periodically with a local law enforcement agency. Who they register with and when are among the variables officers have to deal with.
Sheriff Pat Hartshorn said his department and the city police have been dealing with the registration by offenders as well as checks to make sure they are complying since the mid 1990s, saying it’s a constant source of work.
Ironically, he said many of the sex offenders in Vermilion County obey the registration laws.
“Of all the people that show up as non-compliant, the ones that are really ducking you is a small percentage,” he said. “There’s some that go somewhere or are arrested somewhere else.”
“They’re non-compliant, but when you run it down it’s really not their intent to be non-compliant.”
On the city side, Danville Department of Public Safety Director Larry Thomason said many sex offenders who register addresses do try to following the law’s intricacies.
That said, the department still must devote a full-time detective who spends most of his time checking compliance of the offenders.
“What happens is quite often is quite a bit of them move from address to address,” Thomason said, noting that the detective must then confirm the new address is within the boundaries of the law.
He added city police work to keep a close eye on child sex offenders.
Convicted sex offenders have to register weekly (if homeless) or at 90 days, 6 months or yearly depending upon their case.
As of mid-week, the county had only four non-compliant sex offenders. Of that, only one was considered to be purposefully avoiding law enforcement and registration laws while two are currently incarcerated in the Public Safety Building jail.
Both state and federal laws such as the Adam Walsh Act, dictate a number of rules, starting with registering within three days of being convicted. A person who moves locally must provide the new address to law enforcement. Moving to a new address outside of that jurisdiction requires registration with the new local law enforcement.
A sex offender who visits from out of the area or out of state must register with Vermilion County. And the list goes on.
“It’s a pretty cumbersome law to live under as a sex offender,” Hartshorn said. “A lot of people try and a lot of people call in here asking us ‘Can I do this, can I do that’ because they really truly are trying to comply with the law.”
The sheriff’s department will check within days that the information provided by a registering sex offender is correct and that the offender is compliant with residential laws dictating how close they can live to a school, day care or other facility.
In order to register, sex offenders must fill out a laundry list form that requests — other than their name, address and phone number — information on their make and model of car as well as e-mail address, Instant Messaging and blog or chat room identities and any Internet sites the person maintains.
Capt. Ray Lewellyn said some offenders don’t appreciate revealing so much information.
“It’s what the law requires. It’s not our choice,” he said.
“The state of Illinois decided you’re going to give this information and if you don’t, they’re going to come looking for the right information and you’re going to be in violation and next thing you know you going to be in (the PSB) or in prison for not doing it,” he added.
The sheriff’s department handles registration for Danville and the rest of the county. Danville police takes care of making sure sex offenders in city limits are complying with the law.
Capt. Rod Kaag of the sheriff’s department said as many as half a dozen people have already been arrested this year for non-compliance. But oftentimes he said it’s circumstances that are the reason.
“One (deputy) went to an address verification and spent two weeks trying to find him,” Kaag said, who said the sex offender had moved to Florida without alerting the sheriff’s department here. “But he registered in that county. They knew exactly where he was. Basically, he might have slipped away here, but he was compliant down there.”
In another case, an offender could not be found and was labeled non-compliant. Investigations later found him hospitalized.
Moves, particularly from state to state, can cause problems as police try to determine if what is illegal in one state is also illegal in Illinois. Kaag said one person who moved to Vermilion County from California registered at the sheriff’s department in order to remain complaint.
However, it was determined later that his crime in California — window peeping — is not considered a sex crime in Illinois.
Because of such a variety instances, prosecution of non-compliance is rare, with the final decision made by the Vermilion County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“We’ll send any egregious violation,” Hartshorn said. “We’re not trying to determine on our own who’s violating and who hasn’t. If it’s an egregious violation, then we send it over there. It’s just a question of if they look at the law, do they feel like they can prove that this person intentionally violated the law.
What non-compliant sex offenders may not face in the courtroom, they do receive at the hands of the state. Offenders who are non-compliant can receive up to 10 years added to the time they have to register.
Monitoring sex offenders is not the only challenge law enforcement faces. Day cares operated out a home create problems as sex offenders attempt to find a place to live.
“There’s no requirement that an old woman that keeps two kids for two hours is required to put a sign in her yard that she a day-care center,” Hartshorn said. “So a sex offender could technically look for housing and think ‘OK this is an area I could be in’ and move in next door to someone who is licensed by DCFS and not know it.”
Thomason said the city typically gives a sex offender 30 days notice if the person is staying at an illegal residence.
And residents unhappy with a sex offender living nearby have tried to use the law to their advantage.
“A guy could be living in the neighborhood as a sex offender and the neighbors don’t like it,” Kaag said. “Boom, two people become day cares.”
He added the court’s opinion is to side with who was living in the neighborhood first.
“Let’s face it, this is a popular thing with the public,” Hartshorn said. “They want these people scrutinized.”