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Sex offenders commute to easy registration sites

-  Many choose Fairview for registration -  Senator Monnes Anderson will seek revision of law in 2014 Legislature


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Officer Ryan Gleason hands information to a man registering as a sex offender at the Gresham police department.“Hi, I’m here to register,” said the man.

“Register for ... what?” asked the desk clerk from behind a thick glass window.

“Sex offender.”

Every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to noon, men and women convicted of sex crimes arrive at the lobby of the Fairview Police Department with the singular mission of registering as sex offenders.

Recently, Fairview Police Chief Ken Johnson reported an unusually high number of sex offenders registering in Fairview. Even more odd, a majority of them don’t live in Fairview, but are arriving from Portland and elsewhere within Multnomah County.

The reason is in part due to an Oregon law passed in 2011, which requires sex offenders to renew their registration if their address changes, or if they change jobs or begin or quit school. Offenders also must register every year within 10 days of their birthday. The law also requires sex offenders to register within the county they live in.

Fairview is one of five agencies in the county — along with Troutdale, Gresham, Portland and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office — that has open registration for sex offenders to register.

Johnson said he began keeping track after talking with other departments and he realized Fairview was getting a disproportionate amount.

At the end of September, Johnson reported 252 sex offenders had registered at the city police department since the first of the year, which he said was “a significant amount for a small department.”

“We are averaging around 30 a month right now, and it seems high to me because we certainly don’t have that many sex offenders in Fairview,” Johnson told city councilors at an August meeting.

Shannon Hord, records specialist at the Fairview Police Department, said sex offenders come to Fairview to register for a number of reasons.

“We don’t have a lot of lobby traffic on Tuesday mornings,” Hord said. “Usually its only sex offenders.”

Unlike larger agencies like the Portland Police Bureau’s busy downtown office, Fairview’s location is small, offering a discrete and quiet venue to register sans the embarrassment of having other people around.

“A lot of them have stated they like coming here,” Hord said. “They don’t have people staring at them, other than other sex offenders.”

Chief Johnson said the high number of sex offenders registering is concerning because it can be time consuming for police department personnel.

“Sometimes we have five, six, seven of them in the lobby waiting,” he said. “It ties up the city’s only detective.”

In response, Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson will take the concern to the state judiciary committee.

“A lot of time, (they) pass legislation not realizing some of the ramifications,” Monnes Anderson said.

Legislators say the intent of House Bill 3204 was directed at nonresident sex offenders.

State Representative Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer, Newberg and St. Paul) sponsored the legislation after learning there were sex offenders who were working and going to school in Oregon who were not required to register.

Oregon State Police reported sex offenders who resided out of state had been working or attending school in Oregon but were not on the state sex offender registry.

Another section of the bill added language to help clarify the requirements for when and in which county sex offenders must register.

Monnes Anderson said she fully supports the intent of the bill.

“I really do think sex offenders need to register,” she said.

But Monnes Anderson said there could be tweaks made to the law in 2014 to lessen its unexpected impact on Fairview and other East County cities.

“We are running at such a deficit on our cities in East County,” she said. “The fact they have to spend a whole half day (registering sex offenders) is a tremendous amount of time.”

In search of shorter lines

Gresham Deputy Chief Dale Cummins said after the law passed, requiring sex offenders to register within the county they live, sex offenders were more restricted in the places they could go to register.

“They all started coming to local police departments,” he said.

At that time, local departments didn’t have set hours or days for registration, and an officer had to be called back to the station to register sex offenders.

A Portland man, who prefers to remain anonymous, recently was waiting to register at the Gresham Police Department. Three others were ahead of him in line.

The man said he used to register in Washington County at the Hillsboro Police Department, but when the law changed, he said, “I had to change where I go.”

The reason he came to Gresham to register?

“It’s the office that’s open today and what I have time for,” he said.

Pointing to a sheet of paper with a list of locations where sex offenders can register within Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, he said, “If you look at this, the schedules are limited.”

Just because he’s a registered sex offender, doesn’t mean he doesn’t live a busy life, he said. “You got to go where you can get.”

The man said it was his first time registering at Gresham, where he had already spent an hour in line to complete the process. It usually takes about 10 minutes, he said.

But the downtown Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office at 12240 N.E. Glisan St. in Portland are busier with longer lines, he said.

The man also prefers the “level of anonymity” at smaller agencies.

Simplifying the process

To make it easier, the five police agencies got together and each picked a different day and hours that sex offenders could come in and register.

Gresham dedicates one officer to sit at the station to register offenders between 8 a.m. and noon Thursdays.

“We are packed,” Cummins said.

The Gresham Police Department gets anywhere from 15 to 35 people during that four-hour block, he said. Most are the same offenders coming back to register each time they have a birthday, change jobs or enroll in a class at a university.

Sex offenders wait in the lobby among the other people who filter in and out, waiting for the on-duty officer to take them back and enter updates into the Oregon State Police online registry.

“It’s not a huge increase in sex offenders per se, it is just something we have to deal with,” Cummins said.

Cummins said there hasn’t been any issue with registered sex offenders waiting in its close-quarters lobby among other members of the public, who are more than likely unaware of their presence anyway.

“Offenders are uncomfortable,” Cummins said. “They want to come in and register and go.”

It’s gotta be done

Bob Harley has been the officer registering sex offenders in Gresham for the last two years.

Harley said its not a great system, but it’s something officers are required to deal with.

“Ideally, any officer would tell you, the best thing would be if we didn’t have to do it,” he said.

But that’s not the reality.

Sex offenders are required by law to register, and he’s glad for that. But the process can be time consuming and uncomfortable.

Harley said he tries to have as little involvement as possible with the wide range of convicted sex offenders who come in. But he’s polite and professional.

“They are coming in for a service we have to provide,” he said. “They are doing what they’re required to do.”

Harley said he hasn’t noticed an increase in offenders coming to Gresham since House Bill 3204 was passed into law.

If anything, he said it’s limited now to the people who live in Multnomah County.

Sex offenders who have typically driven across multiple county lines to avoid local police knowing them by name and face can no longer do that, he said.

“At least they have to register in the same county they reside,” Harley said. “Maybe down the road, we can get them to register in the city they reside.”

No problem in Troutdale

Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson said their department averages about five to six sex offenders during it’s Wednesday registration day.

“We don’t have a problem,” he said.

Two receptionists register the offenders in the lobby of the city’s new police station, which easily accommodates those who come and go.

“Our old building was like a closet,” Anderson said. “There was no privacy at all — you were crammed in there.” The new lobby has a community room attached off to the side, so they can separate sex offenders if the need arises.

“If a mother and young girl comes in for another reason during sex offender registration, we would most likely pull them (sex offenders) into another area to talk to them,” he said.

But so far, they haven’t had to.

State lags on registration

Because sex offenders register so often, the Oregon State Police are consequently overloaded with registration.

OSP receives two different types of registration, said Jeff Clabaugh, manager for sex offender registration at Oregon State Police: “initials” and “dailies.”

Initials are the form new offenders fill out after they are released from prison or move from a different state.

Dailies make up the largest volume of registration, Clabaugh said.

The Oregon State Police receives about 200 “daily” registrations per month.

Because a majority of dailies represent simple change of address notifications, it’s difficult for the state to keep track of the number of sex offenders living in certain cities at exact times throughout the state.

On the Oregon State Police website, a mapping system can help pinpoint the number of sex offenders living in a particular area, but those figures are general and not exact, Clabaugh said.

Due to budget cuts and worker constraints, Hord, the records specialist at the Fairview Police Department said, “(OSP) is very, very behind in registering offenders, by about a year.”

Also, the website only posts predatory sex offenders or individuals who have a high risk of re-offending, which Clabaugh said only represents a small percentage of the total number of offenders in the state database.



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