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Off the Grid: How many sex offenders are near you?

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By Lisa Rantala - bio | email | Facebook

Posted by Dave Dykema - email

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Federal Law Enforcement estimates that there are nearly 100,000 unregistered sex offenders in the United States.

Lucas County has nearly 900 and not all of them register with authorities.

Looking up sex offenders in Lucas Co. is easy. Go to the Lucas County Sheriff's website, plug in your address and see a list of nearby offenders.

However, doing that is only accurate if the sex offenders are honest and register.

"Has anyone here had the opportunity to check our website?" asked Lt. Greg Wojciechowski with the Lucas Co. Sheriff's Office at a meeting about sex offenders with neighbors, moms and local Blockwatch members.

The county says a huge misconception is people think they'll receive a letter in the mail if a sex offender moves near them. That's not necessarily true.

You'll only be notified if the sex offender has to register for life.

The group with Lt. Wojciechowski is worried about their kids as well as other neighborhood kids.

"We drive the neighborhoods every so often, follow the school buses, watch where the kids go," Susan Balwinski said.

"I print those pictures off," said Tonia Barnett. "I show them to my kids and have them show their friends."

They can't believe nearly five percent of the offenders on the registry aren't living where they say they are.

"We can't let this go," Barnett said. "Somebody has to stay on top of it."

"Nothing is foolproof," Lt. Wojciechowski responded. "There's always a way for people to beat the system."

To try to stop that, Lt. Wojciechowski brought Det. Dave Carter on board. He's the sole detective in the Lucas Co. Sheriff's Office who tracks down registered sex offenders.

Det. Carter checks an average of 10 to 20 addresses per day. Sometimes, he finds someone's not where they say.

That's why once a week News 11 features sex offenders missing in action in our Predator Alert segment.

These Predator Alerts and you have helped officers arrest violators like Lawrence Watkins who was squatting in the basement of a UT campus building last year.

He's expected to be released from prison this week for that failure to register conviction.

And this month a viewer called in saying Mark Lojewski was living on South Ave. and not his registered address on Airport Highway.

Investigators say violators use excuses like losing their job and having no place to live to register.

"If they give us the park bench they are at and they're actually staying there where we can verify that, then that would suffice," Det. Carter said.

Sex offenders News 11 spoke with say they've just had enough.

"Let us live our life," said Terry McCamery. He must register as a sex offender every 90 days for the rest of his life. "I could kill somebody and I don't have to go through all the changes that I'm going through now."

McCamery did not want to discuss his case but says it involved his ex-girlfriend, not kids.

He complies to avoid more jail time but he says the registry is taking away his rights.

"One minute they say I couldn't live someplace. The next minute I can't do this, I can't do that. My rights are getting violated more and more."

Wood Co. Has more than 100 sex offenders, but deputies only check addresses if they receive a tip that a sex offender is in violation.

Ottawa Co. Has about 50 offenders. Twice a year deputies do a round-up and check all the addresses to see if they're valid.

In Sandusky Co. the sheriff says he has 123 offenders on file. Five are facing violation charges. His jail administrator goes out once a week to check addresses.

Lt. Wojciechowski says he doesn't know stricter laws could help. "It's a matter of the offender doing what they're supposed to do."

However, folks can sign up for an e-alert with the county. This means they will get an email when any classification of offender moves into their neighborhood.

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