Debate Over Listing Sex Offender Addresses

CONWAY, AR — An Arkansas advocacy group is fighting to get law enforcement agencies to remove the full addresses of sex offenders on websites. The group wants the numbers blocked, but not everyone is budging.

Carla Swanson — with Arkansas Time after Time — sent out 900 letters to registered sex offenders with listed addresses on sheriffs’ websites. She says a couple hundred came back to her because the offender no longer lived there. Swanson says that proves the system isn’t very effective, but that’s not her only argument.

She said, “You’re putting not only him, but his entire family in danger.”

Swanson says 24 sheriffs’ departments in Arkansas listed full addresses, but attorneys for Arkansas Time after Time asked those departments to change it to block numbers instead…interpreting that to be the law.

Seventeen did make the changes, Faulkner County was not one of them.

Chief Deputy Matt Rice said, “We want everybody to know exactly where they are. I think the public has a right to know that they’re registered sex offenders.”

What led to the misinterpretation of the law is at the Arkansas Crime Information Center, they can only post block numbers of sex offenders.

Paula Stitz, with the State Sex Offender Registry, said, “So that’s what we go by.”

But, there are different rules for a sheriff’s office. If they believe it will protect the public, the full address can be posted.

Rice said, “We built this website for that purpose.”

But Swanson said, “Can we not do the right ethical thing and not put their full information out there?”

Rice says he can not recall an incident where a sex offender was targeted by someone who pulled their address off the registry list. But, he says if it were a problem, their job would be to protect that person.

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