Woman's search reveals questions about state, local sex offender registration

Oregon leads nation in per capita sex offenders, yet no sex offenders registered as level 3 'predators' in Florence

During a recent move to Florence, a woman who asked to remain anonymous began looking into the area to learn about its schools, home rentals and local services.
   As a parent of two small children, she also researched to see if any registered sex offenders were in the area. After following the City of Florence website to the Florence Police Department link, she found a page that explained that there were no "predatory" sex offenders registered in the city of Florence.
   However, after researching a home she was interested in renting, she discovered on an alternate website that a registered sex offender was listed as an occupant in a home located next door.
   "I was shocked," said the woman, who eventually found a home somewhere else. "It made me wonder why the city website said one thing while another website said something else." According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2016, Oregon had the most sex offenders per capita of any state in the U.S., with 713 sex offenders per 100,000 residents. The national average was 262 offenders per 100,000 people.
   Eighty-one registered sex offenders reside within the Florence area, according to Florence Police Commander John Pitcher. At this time, none of the 81 is classified as a level 3 "predatory" sex offender.
   Pitcher said, "The basic criteria to reach level 3 are violence, domestic abuse and repeat offenses. That would automatically start you as a level 3, or 'predatory."'
   Level 3 offenders are also required by state law to be supervised.
   "Level 1 and 2 sex offenders still have the right to privacy under Oregon law," Pitcher said. "They must register with OSP, but that information is not publicly available. Only level 3 'predatory' sex offenders' information is available to the public.
   "I am not minimizing any crimes, victims or offenses. I'm just stating how sex offenses are categorized," Pitcher added.
   In 2013, Oregon adopted a threelevel classification system for the evaluation of sex offenders.
   The Oregon State Police (OSP) website says, "The classification of sex offenders is based on the statistical likelihood that an individual sex offender will commit another sex crime. "The Department of Corrections uses a sex offender risk assessment to classify sex offenders according to the following levels:
   (1) A level 1 sex offender presents the lowest risk of reoffending and requires a limited range of notification. (2) A level 2 sex offender presents a moderate risk of reoffending and requires a moderate range of notification. (3) A level 3 sex offender presents the highest risk of re-offending and requires the widest range of notification." The level 3 classification replaces the official "predatory" designation.
   Pitcher said the registration of out-of-state sex offenders that move to Oregon is complicated because each state has its own interpretations of what constitutes a "predatory" sex offender.
   "Different states may use different criteria and different verbiage for what they call a sex offender or predatory sex offender," Pitcher said.
   He added, "In the state of Oregon, our state parole board has to designate what level an individual is at. That is what the OSP Sex Offender Registration Program uses to indicate whether there is a community notification on the website that the person is a predatory level 3."
   Pitcher also said he spoke with the program registration manager , Jeff Clabaugh.
   Pitcher said, "He did a deeper search that was available through the OSP website and found some names (in the Florence area) that could be rated at a level 3, but because of certain things within their criteria, they do not rate that designation on the OSP website and for community notification."
   In addition, Pitcher said some of the local names that were registered with the state had not yet received a classification by the parole board.
   "Most of the names on the list don't require the supervision of a level 3 predator. Most of the names were listed as 'unsupervised .' That means they do not require any type of supervision," he said.
   The Lane County Sheriff's Office does not maintain sex offender registration files.
   For more information about the registration program, go to www.oregon.gov/OSP/SOR or call the OSP sex offender registration unit at 503-934-1258 .

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