AUGUST 25, 1997
Police sex offender crackdown brings in unregistered offenders
by Andrew Walgamott
SEATTLE--As many as 65 unregistered sex offenders reported their whereabouts to police in the past two weeks following 14 highly-publicized arrests of offenders who failed to register with King County authorities after a change in state law.
Beginning August 11, a task force, comprised of King County and Seattle Police, Department of Corrections and county Prosecutor's Office, began following up on the new law that says sex offenders who fail to register their addresses and phone numbers with police are committing a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in jail, according to King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office spokesperson Dan Donohoe. Previously, the penalty for not registering was a misdemeanor.
Police targeted Level III offenders, which police spokesman Dave Robinson said were the most dangerous offenders.
After the state law went into effect July 27, the county did a random check on sex offenders to find how many were registered. They didn't find many, Robinson said.
Following up on their discovery, the county sent out letters to offenders' last known addresses notifying them of the new law.
That effort netted 35 offenders reporting their whereabouts to the county.
Arrests were slow in coming due to paperwork problems at the beginning of the first week, Robinson said.
During the first night's arrests August 11, a public access television show host was taken into custody at a cable studio in Seattle. A 49-year-old Shoreline man was arrested August 12.
Robinson said the impact of those two arrests was enough to get some previously unregistered offenders signed into the county's books.
According to Joanne Elledge, another police spokesperson, 65 offenders reported changes of address including 46 new violators as of August 20.
Elledge credited the media with dispersing the county's message to unregistered offenders. "Obviously the sex offenders are reading the newspapers and watching TV and they know they need to come in or go to jail," she said.
Police were pleased with the results and extended the sweep through last week. Arrests last week included an unregistered 39-year-old Woodinville woman previously convicted of third-degree child molestation.
King County has approximately 3,200 registered sex offenders, and as many as 600 more are released from prison each year, according to Donohoe.
Still, officials don't know how many unregistered offenders there are King County. Robinson estimated the number to be between 200-300.