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Registered Sex & Kidnapping Offender Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is "Community Notification" all about?

A. When anindividual who has been convicted of a sex / kidnapping offense, has been released from a prison, work release, or other secure facility, the community has a right to know. Washington statutes provide the opportunity for the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office to give you the information you need, so that you may make good decisions with regard to the safety of yourself and those around you. The purpose of the information contained in this packet is to provide you and your loved ones with additional strategies for crime prevention and detection.  Strategies you may not have thought about if you were unaware of the background of this offender, or had no knowledge of his/her release, or place of residence.

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Q. Why are you only telling me about this offender and not all of the other people who get out of prison?

A. The Community Protection Act of 1990, only involves those offenders who have violated the criminal sexual conduct statutes, the kidnapping statutes, or other statutes with a finding of sexual motivation.

The Washington Department of Corrections (DOC), Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration and the Department of Social and Health Services utilize a sex offender screening tool that was developed by the state of Minnesota.  Based on past behaviors demonstrated by these convicted individuals, this screening tool determines whether an individual, or group of persons, poses a high risk to the public when released.  This does not necessarily mean that they will commit a new crime, but that they are part of a group of persons who are most likely to.  A majority of the individuals in this group will not commit another crime; however, the DOC has determined that some of these persons have a greater likelihood of future offenses than do others.

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Q. Doesn't this mean that it is just a matter of time before the offender commits another crime?

A. The actuarial risk prediction process, is much like the process insurance companies use when determining the insurance costs of a particular driver.  If the driver has speeding tickets, they will pose a greater risk to be in a traffic accident than drivers who have not; thus, they will pay more for their insurance.  When someone gets enough tickets, they have to buy "risk" insurance because they have the greatest risk of being involved in an accident.  Not all speeders get into accidents.  In fact, most of them will not even have accidents; it's just that they are statistically more likely to have an accident than are other drivers.

            Similarly, not all offenders with a high score on the risk test, or even most of them, will commit another crime.  They are just more likely to commit another crime than an offender with a low score.  Individuals who score really high on this screening process are referred to the county attorney for civil commitment to a state hospital after they are released from prison. 

            There is no known way that anyone can accurately predict the future behavior of another person.  The process of screening individuals in prison places them into risk categories.  This doesn't mean that there is a scientific way to evaluate an offenders past behaviors by comparing their past behaviors with other individuals who have been out of prison for awhile.  This shows how offenders might act once they are released.

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Q. Why is this offender moving into my community, shouldn't he stay in prison?

A.Washington is one of the states that have specific sentence lengths for each crime. When this offender was sentenced to prison by the judge, the length of required prison time was previously established for that offense by the Washington State Legislature, and it applies to anyone convicted of the same offense. At some point in time, the offender will have served the sentence required by law and must be released.  Once the sentence is finished, neither the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, nor the court has the power to tell the offender where to live or work

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Q. Don't most of these offenders get sentenced to long prison terms and just get right back out again?

A. This is simply not true.  Washington sex offenders are sentenced to more time, and serve more of that time in prison, than in almost any other state.  In Washington, approximately 23% of the prison population is incarcerated for committing sex crimes. In Washington, sex offenders must serve at least 80% of their sentence in prison, and then they serve the remainder of their sentence in the community, in a situation called "community supervision."  They are supervised by a community correction officer, and are required to report regularly.  In addition, they must fulfill other requirements of the conditions of release, in order to stay out of prison.

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Q. Don't these offenders just go to prison and sit around all day?

A. When an offender goes to prison, a number of important activities are initiated to ensure that the offender gets the kind of controls and support required.  These activities are based on the type of offense for which they have been convicted and help identify the type of criminal behavior an offender committed in the past (if any).

            Many offenders have problems with chemicals, and many of those individuals have an opportunity to participate in chemical dependency treatment.  Other offenders are found to be illiterate, and are offered basic education programs.  Those convicted of a sex offense, or another crime, which is related to a sex offense, will generally be offered an opportunity to participate in sex offender treatment if space is available. The SOTP has limited availability and can not support treatment to every qualifying sex offender.

            All inmates must either work or participate in treatment.  They do not sit around all day and do nothing.  If they do not participate in their assigned treatment, they can be forced to do more time in prison.  If they refuse to work, they will be disciplined. 

            All of these activities are designed to provide offenders, who want to avoid future problems with the law, an opportunity to learn the things they need to know in order to stay out of trouble.  The most important reason the offenders are encouraged to participate in these programs is to reduce the likelihood they will fall into the same patterns of past behaviors; hopefully, preventing them from committing another crime and victimizing another person.

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Q. Now that I know a sex offender lives in my neighborhood, what should I do differently to protect my family and myself?

A. Open communication between parents and children are vital components of family safety.  In general terms tell your children that this person has hurt someone before.  Explain to them that they should stay away from this individual.  Review safety tips. And be aware of common lures.  Remember that the purpose behind community notification is to reduce the chances of future victimization of persons by this offender.  The information gained through this notification should assist you and your family in avoiding situations that allow for easy access to victims.  Don't harass your neighbor.  An offender put in a stressful state is more likely to relapse.  Let's help them succeed; we all win with fewer victims.

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Q. What do I tell my children about this offender?

A. Avoid scary details.  You may know more than your children need to know.  Keep information general, Explain the importance of avoiding dangerous situations in general, rather than trying to teach them how to be safe from just the one person you know about.  Someone known to the victim commits over 80% of all sex crimes; family members commit many of those incidents.

Some basics about this one offender:

            DON'T accept a ride from the offender.

            DON'T go into the home or yard of the offender.

            TELL your parents if this person offers you toys, money, or gifts.

            TRY to use the buddy system when children play outdoors.

            CALL 911 if your parents aren't home and this offender approaches you.

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Q. What does "risk level" mean?

A. Washington State utilizes a tier designation of three classification levels based upon science and a multidisciplinary perspective using objective scoring criteria to determine the offender's potential to re-offend within the community.  Low risk offenders or Level 1 offenders, are considered least likely to re-offend.  Moderate risk offenders or Level 2 offenders are considered to have a greater likelihood of re-offense.  High risk offenders or Level 3 offenders are considered most likely to re-offend.

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Q. What information will I get about High-Risk sex offenders?

A. The State of Washington has strict laws that govern the information that can be disclosed about registered sex/kidnapping offenders.  In accordance with these laws, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office provides, name, date of birth, and physical description information along with address approximations for Level 3 offenders.  Physical description information includes race, sex, height, weight, hair color and eye color.  Conviction information includes the crime, date, and location of conviction.  Victim information is limited to the number of victims, their ages, sex, and whether they were related or not related to the offender.

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Q. Should I be overly concerned about level 3 offenders?

A. While you should be concerned about level 3 offenders, keep in mind that only a very small percentage of offenders are classified as level 3.  In fact, many areas of Whatcom County have few, if any registered level 3 offenders.  There are approximately 28 level 3 offenders in Whatcom County.  The total population of Whatcom County is over 170,000.  Level 3 offenders represent less than 1% of our total population.

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Q. Is there a way to find out who are the most dangerous offenders in our area?

A. Yes.  If you live within an incorporated city you can contact your local police department for additional information.  If you live in the unincorporated county you can contact the Sheriff's Office for information regarding offenders living in the unincoproprated Whatcom County. 

The general public is welcome to view the list of all registered sex/kidnap offenders living in Whatcom County.  Only the level 2 and level 3 offenders will be listed with addresses.  The Sheriff's Office also maintains copies of the sex/kidnap offender community notices that were distributed by this office for public viewing.  Please make your requests with the Records Division.

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Q. Are you going to tell us if the offender moves out of this neighborhood, so we don't have to worry anymore?

A. No.  The information shared about sex offenders is basic safety information that we should all be aware of.  There are many sex offenders in Washington, as well as in every other state and just across our borders in Canada.  It would serve no purpose to have people relax, or not follow safety measures because the sex offender they knew about moved from the neighborhood.  Sex offenders, like anyone else, establish friendships and business relationships in the area where they are living.  There is no reason to believe they would give up these relationships just because they have moved to another part of town or county.

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Q. Why are sex offenders allowed to live near schools?

A. Currently there are no laws governing where a sex offender can or can not live.  The exception to this is only when there is a court order in existence that places restrictions on the offender.

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Q. Is there anyone I can talk to about other sex/kidnap offender questions?

A. Every Police Department in Whatcom County has an officer assigned to their sex/kidnap offender program.  You may call your local Police Department for additional information.  Citizens living in the unincorporated county may call the Sheriff's Office and ask for the detective coordinating the sex/kidnap offender program (360) 676-6650.

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Q. Why are lists of all registered sex offenders posted on web pages in many states and not here in Whatcom County?

A. Federal legislation set certain mandates for all states concerning the registration of sex offenders.  Most states were affected differently by this legislation.  Many of the states already had some form of a registration program in place.  Many states also had some form of public disclosure mechanism, which is associated to an offender's probability of re-offending. 

The Washington State Supreme Court has held that public disclosure of offenders must be geographically based to the community in which the notification occurs.  Prior to the year 2001, posting sex offenders on the Internet would not satisfy the court's interpretation of being geographically based since dissemination would be available to anyone outside of the geographical area of the offender.  The content and scope of dissemination is restricted by the standards set forth by the legislature and interpreted by the Washington State Supreme Court in State v. Ward, 123 Wn. 2d 488, (1994).

The Washington State legislature modified our sex offender laws in 1997 to be in compliance with the latest federal legislation.  During 2001, the Washington State Legislature mandated every sheriff's office in the state to publish on their web sites all level 3 sex/kidnap offenders registered in their counties.  Some cities and counties in this state have chosen to release information on other sex/kidnap offenders living in their perspective jurisdictions.  The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office believes this to be contrary to state law.

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Q. What are Sentencing Alternatives?

In Washington State, adult felons are sentenced within standard sentencing guidelines.  This standardized sentencing system went into effect in 1984.  Various sentencing options are available to the court for sex offenders:

  • Jail or prison terms within state sentencing guidelines.
  • Exceptional sentence (higher or lower than the sentencing guidelines).
  • SSOSA (Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative), a suspended sentence requiring outpatient treatment that is paid by the offender.

Under state law, most persons under age 18 charged with a crime fall under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and may be held in an institutional program up to the age of 21 (some juveniles who are 16 and 17 are prosecuted as adults if they are charged with certain offenses – RCW 13.04.030)

SSODA (Special Sex Offender Disposition Alternative), a suspended sentence requiring outpatient treatment that is funded by government programs.

Juvenile offenders sentenced to more than 30 days are committed to the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) within the Department of Social and Health Services.  Juvenile offenders sentenced to less than 30 days, and those placed on community supervision, remain under local jurisdiction.  Certain juvenile can be sent to a diversion unit where they are directed to fulfill certain conditions in lieu of prosecution.

JRA provides residential programs for youths committed to its custody, parole supervision of youths released from its facilities, and community corrections' resources to youths under county authority. 

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