Original Article (Video available)
By Dave Roberts
OMAHA - Local law officials said sex offenders are ducking the system because they want Douglas County to make registering more convenient, but the county said it's not going to cater to convicts.
Authorities said there are not many wealthy registered sex offenders in Douglas County. In fact, the exact opposite can be said for most. Most convicted criminals are living on fixed incomes and some are without a home; most are unable to buy a car.
When it takes a 13-mile cab ride to register as a sex offender, some choose to break the law and disappear, putting everyone else at risk.
There are nearly 755 sex offenders in Douglas County living nowhere near the place to register.
“It's way too far out there. The buses don't go out there. I don't even know whose idea it was. It’s just a stupid place to put the registry to begin with,” said _____, a registered sex offender.
_____ admitted he made a bad mistake when he was 19.
“I told a 14-year-old girl that if she did not come with me, I was going to rape her,” he said.
Now, for the rest of his life, _____ must register every three months as a sex offender. In order to do that, he must take a cab from downtown out west to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office on 156th Street and West Maple Road.
“It cost me $40 round-trip,” said _____.
_____ said he didn’t show up to register one time because he had no money or way to get there.
County Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson is pushing for a downtown registration location.
“It made sense that we would have a location that was accessible that our sex offenders would be able to go and register,” said Borgeson, who represents District 6.
State law requires the Douglas County sheriff to monitor the whereabouts of sex offenders. Right now, the only place sex offenders can register is at the Sheriff's Office, even though more than 75 percent of them live near downtown Omaha.
"We'd like to staff the second location downtown for the sex offender registration program, but we are not funded to do so,” said Chief Deputy Tom Wheeler.
Wheeler said it is certainly possible people are not registering because they can't make it to 156th Street and West Maple Road.
“We have a handful each year that don't complete their verification process,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler said the department is working on a pilot program where one day a week sex offenders could register downtown, likely at the courthouse. It will either happen in person with a deputy or using a video conference system.
“We are in the beginning planning phases of those two, and we are working through them now,” he said.
_____ said one day a week at the courthouse or the jail would be helpful.
“It would help out a lot for the offenders that don't have the money to go out there. It's a major inconvenience for offenders that can't do it financially,” said _____.
For Borgeson, and nearly everyone else, it's not about catering to sex offenders.
“This isn't about making it easy for them. This isn't about accommodating sex offenders. It’s about having a safe community and knowing where sex offenders are located,” she said.
Wheeler said he hopes the downtown registration pilot program can start this fall. If more sex offenders chose to register downtown, the Sheriff's Office said it will consider some permanent changes.
Any sex offender in Nebraska who fails to register will be charged with a felony.