South Salt Lake police officers paid a visit to many of the registered sex offenders living in their city Tuesday evening. Their goal was to make sure the personal information the offenders supplied to the state was up-to-date and accurate.
Utah's sex offender registry law requires all convicted sex offenders to keep the state updated on information such as where they are living, where they are employed and what car they are driving.
The penalty for failing to provide updated information to the registry was raised from a misdemeanor to a felony on July 1.
Tuesday, South Salt Lake became the latest police department to make home visits — with help from Adult Probation and Parole — to its registered sex offenders. There are 114 sex offenders registered in the city, said South Salt Lake Police Capt. Jack Carruth.
South Salt Lake officers visited about 60 sex offenders at the addresses they provided to the registry. They weren't necessarily out to arrest people but rather educate and give them their one warning, said Carruth.
"Our goal is not to go out and make numerous amounts of arrests. We hope to find the majority of individuals in compliance," he said. "We also want to let them know we know where they're at."
On average, 20 percent of sex offenders are not in compliance, Carruth said. Sometimes it's because of an accidental oversight, like purchasing a new car but forgetting to inform the state.
But for those who move away and purposely try to avoid telling the state their new address, Carruth said there is no warning. They are immediately arrested on a parole violation or an arrest warrant is issued if they cannot be located.
Three of the 60 offenders visited Tuesday were found not to be in compliance. Their violations were considered major and would be screened with the District Attorney's Office, according to police.
Another purpose of Tuesday's compliance check was to establish a roster for patrol officers. Carruth said if a child were to go missing in their city, obviously some of the first people who would be interviewed are registered sex offenders. By having immediate access to where they live and what vehicles they drive, investigators can track them down quicker and either eliminate them as suspects or possibly solve a case faster.
South Salt Lake police plan to do more compliance checks in the coming weeks to make sure those who were given warnings last time had taken care of their problems. Offenders are required to update their information with the state within 10 days of a change in address or primary vehicle. Officers also plan to visit other offenders they did not make contact with Tuesday night.
Salt Lake City police officers conducted a compliance check of the approximately 280 registered sex offenders in their jurisdiction earlier this year.
There are approximately 6,800 people on the Utah sex offender registry. Some of those offenders are currently incarcerated.
As of Tuesday, the state knew of 638 people who were not compliant with the registry. However, Department of Corrections officials said that did not mean 638 offenders were missing. Some of those were in non-compliance for minor violations. Those people aren't hiding, they just haven't updated their personal information, according to the Corrections Department.