Sex offender oversight increases
Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies are stepping up supervision of sex offenders to include changes in the state's Megan's Law registration system.
Pittsburgh police Detective Michael Veith on Thursday obtained arrest warrants for six people accused of failing to register their addresses as part of registration requirements, and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole began a pilot program this month to monitor sex offenders' searches on the Internet.
Changes in the law, which took effect in December, involve collecting more information on offenders and requiring those convicted of the most serious crimes or repeat offenders to register addresses, job status and other information with the state more frequently.
“We're staying on this,” Veith said.
The changes mean 60 percent of the 500 convicted sex offenders living in Pittsburgh must register their addresses four times a year for the rest of their lives because they're classified as Tier III sex offenders — those a judge deems the most violent and dangerous. They had until the end of March to comply.
In Allegheny County, 758 of the 1,126 registered sex offenders are Tier III, said Alan Pelton, manager of the Allegheny County Adult Probation Department.
“They made us aware of who to really concentrate on,” Veith said of the requirements. “I was shocked. I didn't realize there was that many Tier IIIs.”
Lt. Todd Harman of the state police Megan's Law unit said the crackdown on reporting requirements likely will lead to scofflaws.
“There will be more people falling out of compliance because they have to do it more often,” Harman said. “We've been working with the U.S. Marshals and local police to ramp up compliance checks on these individuals.”
Veith said he does at least 500 compliance checks a year and Pittsburgh detectives will continue to check the registration of sex offenders more frequently than the law stipulates.
“It's not a requirement, but it's what we choose to do. It's for the safety of the public to make sure these individuals are registering at the correct address,” Veith said.
The Pittsburgh office of the Probation and Parole Board identified 15 sex offenders whose computers will be monitored using Securus Software, Director Larry Ludwig said.
“They have key words and phrases they recognize,” Ludwig said of the software. “Any time an offender would do a search with those key words or phrases, the database would capture the screen shot and we would get a snap shot of what they're searching.”
Offenders are not allowed to access or view pornography, Ludwig said.
“Prior to this, the agent would have to research the offender's history, and there's a lot of people more IT capable than we may be and can hide some of that,” Ludwig said. “This is a lot more user-friendly.”
Members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies share information to enforce compliance among sex offenders with Megan's Law registration.
Megan's Law is named for a New Jersey girl, Megan Kanka, 7, who was molested and killed in 1994 by a neighbor who had been convicted of sex crimes against children. It requires convicted sex offenders to register with state police, who post the information on a public website.
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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