In 1997, a sex offender registration and notification law took effect in Ohio. To enforce that law in Seneca County with the nearly 100 sex offenders currently residing in it, Lt. William Cunningham of the Seneca County Sheriff's Office leads the way.
Cunningham, the county's sex offender registration officer, said state law requires certain individuals who have been convicted of sex crimes to register with the sheriff's office once, twice or three times a year. The number of times they must register depends on the severity of their conviction.
"The main reason for sex offender registration is for the safety of the community," Cunningham said.
Information required on behalf of the offender includes their residential address, work address, telephone number, vehicle description, internet identities and any schools they may be attending. If there is a change in any of the information, they must register the new information within three days, Cunningham said.
When offenders fail to register or notify the sheriff's office of a change in information, probation or a trip back to jail or prison is nearly inevitable, Cunningham said.
He said in 2011 and 2012, 15 offenders were indicted in Seneca County on registration violation charges. Nine have pled in court and six cases are pending.
Cunningham said 99 sex offenders living in Seneca County must also comply with laws restricting where they can reside.
The laws, passed in 2003 and 2005, prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare or preschool.
Cunningham said the restrictions make for a safer community, but can sometimes make it difficult for an offender to find a residence."I have to verify an address. There are times they may give me two or three addresses they can't stay at," he said.
Along with enforcing sex offender laws, Cunningham also tracks the offenders by performing address verifications.
"I'll go out and see if I can find people there. I also do employment verifications," he said.
By keeping a close eye on the offenders, the likelihood of a registration violation or an additional offense is reduced, Cunningham said.
"I haven't had any of the sex offenders on registration with me reoffend with another sex offense," he said.
Cunningham said other law enforcement agencies also make the enforcement of sex offender laws possible. He said all of the police departments in Seneca County, along with the Tiffin Municipal Court, Seneca County Common Pleas Court and the Tiffin and county prosecutor's offices have helped the sheriff's office enforce the registration and notification laws.
To report an anonymous tip about a sex offender who may not be in compliance with the laws, call (419) 448-5057. Residents may also search sex offenders in their area at senecacountyso.org/sex_offenders.htm.