By Marilyn Monroe
SULPHUR - Initial registration and renewal fees for convicted sex offenders in the City of Sulphur are heading for an increase. The Council agreed Monday, Aug. 12, to introduce an ordinance allowing the change.
Currently, any convicted sex offender who moves into the city pays a $60 fee for their initial registration. That same amount is charged for the annual renewals of those already living in Sulphur. If passed, the new ordinance, according to Councilman Stuart Moss, would make the initial registration $600 and the annual renewal fee $200.
Sulphur resident Randy Hebert spoke out against the increase.
"I don't understand why we are raising the fee on this. We spend so much money on say domestic abuse and other offenses that tie up our patrols' time; why are we increasing the fees for this one group of criminals," Hebert inquired.
Moss stated that with the Sulphur Police Department moving toward their own monitoring program for sex offenders, there will be added costs to the department for such items as training, equipment, and overtime hours worked, among other expenses. In his opinion, the offender should bear the burden of the extra cost for compliance checks, not the taxpayer.
"I'm trying to make sure they are doing what needs to be done. Our officers are supposed to be out there checking on them, and we don't have that in place," said Moss. "We need to do this. We need to be proactive."
SPD chief Lewis Coats offered his support for the increase in fees.
"I don't think the registered sex offender needs to pay our salary, but I do think they should supplement my budget for the payment of overtime [and other expenses] for my officers to go out there and do spot compliance checks," said the chief.
- So do you also charge people for calling 911 which requires you to get off your butt? Or gang bangers, prostitutes, drug dealers, etc? It's extortion plain and simple!
He also emphasized that it was time to change his department's approach to sex offender compliance issues. The SPD has long relied on the Sheriff's Office to do spot checks on offenders.
"At this point now, it is reactive. We only respond whenever we receive a phone call on something such as a sex offender not living at a particular address. We are changing that to a proactive approach where the officer will arrive at the person's house at an unspecified date or time, making sure that they live there and making sure that they meet all the requirements that their tier sets forth."
He continued, saying, "I don't want to be the chief that says, 'Well I could have done that.' I want to be the chief that says, 'I've done all I can, and the citizens of Sulphur are as safe as they possibly could be.' I would prefer to be safe than sorry."
A public hearing will be held on the matter at the Council's Sept. 9 meeting.