12/20/2014

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Local & Regional

Report: Oregon a 'haven' for sex offenders

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon has, per capita, more registered sex offenders than all but one other state. It also has one of the worst records in the country for following federal standards intended to keep sex offenders from moving to avoid supervision, and it has become a haven for offenders dodging stricter rules elsewhere, a newspaper investigation has concluded.

Often, officers came across sex offenders violating the terms of their sentences only because the offenders commit another crime, they're pulled over for a traffic stop or someone reports them, The Oregonian reported Wednesday.

"Most of these cases, to be blunt, are dumb luck," said Josh Marquis, the Clatsop County's district attorney who handled one of the state's most notable cases, that of sex offender Mark D. Beebout.

Beebout moved from California to Oregon, never telling police where he was living as required. Once in Oregon, he beat up one woman and killed two others.

He still isn't in the state registry, even though he was convicted of failing to register in March 2012 in Clatsop County and was sentenced to life for aggravated murder and assault eight months ago in Multnomah County.

Among The Oregonian's findings:

— Oregon is two years behind entering names into its electronic database of registered sex offenders. It's so out of date that local police don't rely on it.

"We don't like where we're at," said Capt. Calvin Curths, commander of the State Police criminal investigation division. "We're trying to fix it."

The registration unit has 12 people, but retirements and job changes last summer turned over three quarters of the staff. Only one person is now qualified to log in more than 1,200 offenders registering for the first time since 2011. Also in the queue: More than 13,000 updated change-of-address or annual registrations.

— Oregon is among four states that have done the least to comply with registration and community notification guidelines under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act passed seven years ago to tighten a patchwork of state laws.

Only 19 states have substantially met the standards. A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed Oregon has completed eight of the 14 guidelines.

States that don't comply either lose 10 percent of an annual federal crime-fighting grant or, as in Oregon's case, must use the 10 percent in compliance efforts.

— The names, photos and criminal histories of only 649 of Oregon's 25,354 sex offenders appear on the state's public website.

Oregon law limits the list to sex offenders designated as predatory and includes other qualifications. Federal law calls for states to publicize all registered sex offender's photos, names, addresses and places of employment, except for those convicted of misdemeanor sex offenses that involve an adult victim.

— Oregon is out of step with federal classification rules that call for offenders to be put in one of three categories based on convictions.

The Legislature passed a law this year setting up a three-tiered registration system based on risk and making it easier for some offenders to petition for relief from registration.

Defenders of the bill say the list of offenders is growing too large to follow and focusing on those posing the greatest risk will be more effective.

Risk assessments have been done for about 16,000 of Oregon's offenders. The state parole board could finish the rest in another four years if it gets two additional staffers, said Jay Scroggin, who recently served as the board's executive director.

— Oregon has 496 registered sex offenders for each 100,000 people. The highest proportion in the nation is in Delaware, 537 offenders per 100,000 people.

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Information from: The Oregonian

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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