The sex offender next door
The sex offender registry is supposed to help keep us safer by telling us who's living in our neighborhoods. But how reliable is a system that relies on criminals to tell the truth about where they live?Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears hitPhoto: Video by ktnv.com
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The sex offender registry is supposed to help keep us safer by telling us who's living in our neighborhoods.
But how reliable is a system that relies on criminals to tell the truth about where they live?
Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears hit the streets to find out.
"Um... no cameras, please," says the man in the small apartment as he puts his hand up in front of his face.
"No film!" shouts another man as he slams the door.
Why don't these guys want to be on camera?
They're convicted sex offenders trying to hide from their crimes and in some cases, trying to hide where they live from law enforcement.
"A lot of them feel that they're smarter than us. That they can't get caught," says Officer Van Dyke of Nevada's Department of Public Safety.
Like all states, sex offenders in Nevada are required by law to report where they live.
So far this year, Metro has arrested 67 offenders for failing to comply with registration requirements.
"There's a reason these laws are in place," says local realtor and downtown resident Steve Franklin. He signed up for e-mail alerts so he knows when a sex offender moves into the downtown area.
"Most of them have been accurate, but every now and then one will come across, I'll check the map and see that a sex offender will claim to live right here in a parking lot."
Steve recently got two e-mails showing sex offenders living at bogus addresses. One in a parking lot on Las Vegas Boulevard and another just down the street at an address that doesn't exist. If it did, it would be right between Walgreen's and Wells Fargo at Charleston and the Strip.
"How can they get away with this? How does this happen?" Franklin asks.
We wondered too. So Contact 13 combed through the sex offender registries for Metro, North Las Vegas and Henderson.
Out of nearly 2000 names, we randomly selected 25 tier two and three offenders. Then we hit the streets.
"We're just doing a compliance check," says Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears to a convicted rapist. "That's you, you're here, that's all we needed to know."
Ten of the offenders checked out just fine. But it didn't take us long to find some who didn't.
Lyndon Jackson is registered at a Summerlin address in The Vistas, but the guy who answered the door told us he's not living there now.
"He is at this moment in time in Ely," the man said.
When you think Ely, you think prison, but Contact 13 confirmed Jackson is not behind bars.
"Do you know that this is an invalid address provided to law enforcement?" Spears asked the man at the door. "Because it says this is where he lives currently."
"I am not answering any more questions," he responded, and slammed the door.
We notified Metro so they could try to track Jackson down and went to find Ronald Kenly Lacy, who's been convicted of multiple sex crimes against children.
Darcy: "This man does not live here?"
Woman at door: "No."
Darcy: "What do you think about the fact that this address is listed as the address of a convicted sex offender?"
Woman: "It scares me. I have two boys. I'm home all the time by myself and I don't like the way it is."
We later found Lacy lives at another address across town, which was also listed as his in the registry.
Back in North Las Vegas, we went looking for Dennis Abeyta who's is guilty of a laundry list of sex crimes against children.
At the address where he's supposed to live, we found a vacant home.
Since we first looked Abeyta up in the database, his status has changed to non-compliant and authorities are investigating whether he moved to California.
When we checked on John Patsy Iovino in southeast Las Vegas...
Woman who answered door: "I'm not saying anything."
Darcy: "If he doesn't live here, there's a problem. You don't want to say one way or another?"
She didn't. She just closed the door without another word.
Iovino's was among nine offender addresses we couldn't confirm either because no one was home, no one would talk or the address was too vague.
"What kind of margin of error is acceptable to you?" Spears asked Steve Franklin.
"It's pretty easy to cross-check this stuff, so really, zero is the number."
On our final visit to North Las Vegas, we find yet another bogus address.
Patrick Grossardt is a convicted child molester. According to the database, we should be able to find him at 300 W. Gowan. Problem is, there is no such address. 300 West Gowan would be in a nine-acre dirt lot, which just so happens to be right in front of an elementary school.
Metro says they don't statistically track bad addresses, but experience shows offenders give them bogus information about 10 to 15-percent of the time.
In North Las Vegas, Sgt. Tim Bedwell says, "It is not an uncommon thing."
We told him in our sample of 25 we found six addresses that were no good. That's more than 25-percent.
"That is disconcerting, and we'd want those addresses," Bedwell said.
We handed them over so they could investigate.
Sgt. Bedwell says part of the problem with the registry is that many sex offenders are transient or homeless.
Because of that, a new law was passed in the last legislative session requiring them to list a location--even if it's just an intersection.
"And I don't know how you do compliance checks on that," he says in frustration.
Failing to register or giving a bogus address is a felony.
Bottom line, Bedwell says, the registry is not the last line of defense.
"Even if they don't have a sex offender registered on their street, it doesn't mean there isn't a sex offender on their street. Because obviously everybody doesn't get caught, everybody doesn't get prosecuted and everybody doesn't end up in the database. So the protection of children is first and foremost a parent's responsibility, family's responsibility. And they shouldn't get complacent by looking at a list and a map."
Remember the offender who listed a dirt lot as his address? North Las Vegas police tracked him to another address in Henderson and are checking to make sure he's really there.
Tier 3 offenders are checked on quarterly. For Tier Twos it's twice a year.
Law enforcement tries to check every new or changed address within a month of receiving it, and the database is updated on a continuing basis as new information comes in.
If you'd like to check on sex offenders in your neighborhood, we've posted links to the databases.