Countywide sex offender sweep prompts multiple arrests, citations

bbashioum@demo-mo.comJuly 3, 2014 

A recent compliance check on Cass County’s 136 registered sex offenders yielded multiple arrests and citations issued.

“It’s a check and balance thing,” Cass County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Jeff Weber said. “Not to say that any of them are doing any wrong; it sure goes a long ways to keep them in compliance.”

The results of the June 26 sweep, Operation Shield, included law enforcement officers making contact with 53 offenders who were non-compliant, resulting in four criminal summons, six warrant arrests, and initiating 13 additional criminal investigations.

The special operation was conducted 4-11 p.m. in conjunction with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshal Service, who receives federal funding to cover the manpower costs for the initiative.

Weber said the task of checking on all 136 residents on their list within the allotted time frame is a significant undertaking, and requires help from other agencies.

Operation Shield combined the efforts of 74 law enforcement officers from a variety of agencies, including Archie, Belton, Garden City, Harrisonville, Independence, Raymore, Peculiar and Pleasant Hill police departments, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Cass County Prosecutor’s Office, Cass County Sheriff's Office, Missouri Probation and Parole Dist. 28, Missouri State Highway Patrol, U.S. Marshal Service and the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Taskforce, to conduct a sex offender compliance/address verification sweep in the rural and incorporated areas of Cass County.

Officers were split into groups of four or five among 12 teams. Several teams were assigned to the southern half of the county, while others focused on the northern half.

Cpl. Jason Heffernan of the Cass County Sheriff Office organized the June 26 efforts to locate sex offenders across the county – in the communities of Archie, Austin, Baldwin Park, Belton, Cleveland, Creighton, Drexel, East Lynne, Freeman, Garden City, Greenwood, Gunn City, Harrisonville, Lake Annette, Lake Winnebago, Lee’s Summit, Loch Lloyd, Peculiar, Pleasant Hill, Raymore, Strasburg and West Line.

“Cpl. Heffernan is very instrumental in our office to organize this event,” Weber said. “He works diligently with Lt. Kircher to keep our offenders registered and compliant.”

Authorities said 49 registered sex offenders were found to be compliant with offender registration requirements during the sweep.

“It’s a good thing, whether we make any arrests or write any tickets, or not, we’re making sure those people understand that we’re taking this very seriously and we’re going to be following up with them to make sure they are in compliance,” Weber said.

State statute requires sex offenders to register their address with their county’s sheriff’s office, who then extends the information to the Missouri State Highway Patrol who keeps a database of offenders across the state. Although offenders are required to register their addresses with their county, there are no mandates that require local authorities to check on offenders periodically.

“It seems kind of silly to have this registration requirement but no one is checking up on them,” Weber said. “That’s where the federal funds come in handy.”

Traditionally, deputies will break the list up into smaller groups and do compliance checks here and there, especially if they don’t believe something is right with a particular offender.

Bigger events, like the operation last week, allows authorities access to more resources to verify that offenders are where they say they are, and aren’t violating the terms of their probation or parole, if there are restrictions.

“If they came in and gave us information, and nobody ever followed up on it, you’re relying on them for the accuracy of it,” Weber said. “For us to confirm that accuracy, it keeps them on their toes.”

During the sweep, the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force also provided specially-trained teams that previewed more than 20 computers and electronic devices during the event.

Deputies will conduct compliance follow-ups with the remaining 34 individuals who could not be verified during the sweep. Door hangers were left at residences where contact couldn’t be made, letting offenders know why law enforcement officers were visiting and encouraging them to make immediate contact authorities.

“We’d like for them to come check in with us to make sure that they are compliant so we don’t have to do additional work trying to run them down,” Weber said.

Weber said when an offender doesn’t comply with their request to make contact, deputies question if there is a reason why they are avoiding contact.

If an offender has moved, that information must also be noted.

“There are those on occasion that move (and) they don’t notify us, and (then) they don’t notify the county that they moved to,” Weber said. “That puts them out of compliance and it’s a criminal violation.”

Offenders who were issued a summons are scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23.

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