February 7, 2016

New rules for sex offenders go into effect (AUDIO)

A new law goes into effect in South Carolina this week that will not allow some criminal sex offenders to live within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, church, park, or other place children could be.

Rep. Joan Brady (R-Richland) speaks to reporters in Columbia Monday. Looking on is SC Sheriffs Association Ex. Dir. Jeff Moore

State legislator Joan Brady (R-Richland) sponsored the 2008 law after a constituent complained about a sex offender who lived across the street from a northeast Columbia park.

She asked, “How can this convicted offender live there?” Well, they could live there, because we didn’t have any restrictions. So, I started researching what had been done in other states and… also started hearing from other jurisdictions.

There were no restrictions on where offenders could live prior to the 2008 law. Brady says the new law was needed so local governments didn’t have conflicting, confusing laws from town to town.

AUDIO – Brady: It’s 1,000 feet whether you’re in Bamberg or Columbia (0:16)

The law does not apply to those already living within the 1,000 yard radius. However, if those offenders move again, they will have to obey the new rules.

SLED demonstrates the "Offender Watch" for Pine Grove Elementary School in Columbia

The reason it took over two years for the law to go into effect was its dependence upon the state creating a tracking system for sex offenders. SLED unveiled its new “Offender Watch” program in a press conference Monday.

Jeff Moore is Executive Director of the South Carolina Sheriffs Association. He says the new software dramatically helps law enforcement.

The old law required us to physically go out and… verify an address where somebody says they live. We still get people who (ask) if they can give us an address of Post Office Box 21427. Well, nobody lives in a post office box.

The tracking system, which is available to the public on the State Law Enforcement Division’s website, shows where all registered sex offenders live in South Carolina and lists any schools or daycare centers nearby. The system is designed to help law enforcement officers map out the proximity of offenders’ homes to those spots children frequent.

The 1,000 foot rule only applies to those convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, kidnapping a person under 18, or human trafficking of minors.

SLED Director Reggie Lloyd said another part of the new system would require offenders to provide their primary email address, as well. Those addresses would also be posted online so parents could search to see if their children are in contact with any of them. Lloyd said sex offenders are only allowed to have one email address.

However, Attorney General Alan Wilson says parents still have to be vigilant.

AUDIO – Wilson: It does not replace common sense (0:13)

On the site, you can also register to receive alerts about a particular offender. If that person moves or is released from prison, an email will be sent to your inbox.

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