Loophole delays notification when sex offenders move into neighborhood | NevadaAppeal.com

Loophole delays notification when sex offenders move into neighborhood

Police and lawmakers say the state must fix what appears to be a loophole in Nevada’s sex offender notification system.

State law provides for community notification when potentially dangerous sex offenders move into a neighborhood. But under the existing rules, a sex offender could live in a neighborhood for several months before police are able to notify other residents.

Nevada’s Advisory Council for Community Notification of Sex Offenders, which includes lawmakers as well as representatives from district attorneys offices and others, voted Thursday to ask the Attorney General’s Office to look at streamlining the regulations to shorten that gap.

“I think the concern to everybody in the room is that when a sex offender comes in to register, there could be a significant period of time before the community is notified,” said Ben Graham of the Clark County District Attorney’s Office. “We have to make sure there isn’t a significant window where nothing is done.”

Capt. P.K. O’Neill, head of the state’s Criminal History Repository, said a sex offender moving to Nevada has two days to register with authorities. O’Neill’s staff then has 90 days to assess and classify the offender.

The offender has 10 days after that to appeal and there is another 30-day period to consider the request for a change in classification.

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He said there would be problems, particularly if the 90-day period were shortened, because they need that time to get criminal history records from other states and review them to decide how dangerous the offender really is.

In Nevada, those most likely to re-offend – sexual predators and repeat offenders – are classified in Tier 3. In those cases, the community surrounding the offender’s residence is notified.

Tier 2 are less serious offenders and Tier 1 is for those deemed unlikely to commit another sexual offense.

The problem occurs with offenders moving to Nevada from another state. For sexual offenders released from Nevada’s prisons, they are already classified before release.

Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, said the notification law was passed with the most dangerous offenders in mind.

“I think the public wants to know who are the predators and where are the predators,” he said.

“We know we can’t touch the tiers right now,” said council chairman Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas. “We want to tighten up the guidelines.”

O’Neill said it’s a difficult issue to resolve because the investigation and assessment process takes time and offenders are entitled to appeal if they believe they’ve been wrongly classified.

“It’s not easy to always come up with a good solution that protects the rights of the community and balances the rights of the offender,” he said.

The panel voted to ask the attorney general to consider instructing the criminal history repository to notify local law enforcement about sex offenders even if they have appealed their tier assignment. They also suggested allowing law enforcement to notify the community even when a request for reconsideration is filed if law enforcement believes the offender poses a risk to the public.

Assistant Attorney General Randy Munn said the office would consider the recommendations.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.