By Shaun Hittle
A September Journal-World investigation of Kansas sex offenders who fail to register when crossing state lines prompted a federal agency to take action and led to several arrests, said Tom Lanier, a chief inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service.
Last year, a Journal-World investigation found that more than 160 Kansas sex offenders who left Kansas were not registered in other states. Failing to register after moving to other states is potentially a federal and state crime.
Following the investigation, the Journal-World furnished the Marshals Service — tasked with enforcing sex offender laws across state lines — with a list of unregistered offenders.
“We went painstakingly through the list,” said Lanier, who is in charge of the Sex Offender Investigations branch, which includes Kansas.
They were quickly able to narrow the list down, Lanier said. Some of the offenders had died or moved to states with different registration laws that did not require them to register.
For the past several months, the Marshals Service has been investigating 22 of the cases identified by the Journal-World. Those investigations led to two arrests, while two additional sex offenders were arrested for other offenses and could face additional failure-to-register charges.
The Marshals Service is actively searching for several other offenders who have failed to register, but the agency asked that those names not be released.
In addition, two of the offenders, [name withheld] and [name withheld], are currently serving in the U.S. Army. Lanier said that the Marshals Service contacted the Army in both instances and that the Army is aware of both men’s sex-offender status. Calls to the Army for comment were not immediately returned.
Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said the KBI, which is responsible for the Kansas Sex Offender Registry, sends letters to states notifying them that a registered sex offender is entering their state. But after that, it’s somebody else’s responsibility.
“It’s up to (the new state and the offender) to do,” said Smith when interviewed about the issue in September.
There could be cases where an offender moves to one state, then to another, but that information isn’t necessarily communicated among states, Smith said.
That’s exactly the problem, said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for more accountability in sex offender registries nationwide.
“We’ve established a law that requires society’s most cunning of criminals to register on an honor system,” Ahearn said.
- And you established a law based on lies, misinformation and personal feelings. The registry doesn't protect anybody or prevent crime, neither does residency restrictions, it's all about ex post facto (unconstitutional) punishment, and to see how far people are willing to eradicate others rights for temporary "safety!" It's the same with the TSA stuff and losing personal rights based on a boogieman, you lose your rights for a placebo to make you feel safe when you never will be.
Inconsistent laws among states make keeping track of sex offenders a complicated endeavor, a situation Lanier and the Marshals Service is all too familiar with.
“There’s 50 ways of doing business out there,” Lanier said. “Nobody really has a clue how many (sex offenders) have to register.”
In some cases, an offender in one state may not be required to register in another state. That means some clever offenders are engaged in “state shopping,” where offenders move to a state where registry laws may not be as strict.
“That’s not uncommon,” Lanier said.