Police Find Sex Offenders Breaking the Law in the River Valley
Nearly 300 sex offenders in Sebastian County are getting a surprise visit from the U.S. Marshals Service and other local law agencies this week. Operation Safe Gateway is making sure all offenders are obeying the law.
“If we can prove they’re living there, we can get that information, that’s the information we want to get to the public for their safety,” says Fort Smith Detective Michael McCoy.
Detective McCoy is the sex offender coordinator for Fort Smith Police. He says offenders range from level one to level four in Arkansas.
“The ones and twos have a lower risk of reoffending,” says Det. McCoy, “Usually they have one victim and it’s usually within their household or the area right around their household.”
According to Det. McCoy, those offenders can live anywhere as long as they’re registered, but levels three and four are considered sexual predators. They typically have multiple victims and cross gender lines. They also can’t live within 2,000 ft. of schools, parks, daycare, etc.
“In Fort Smith, we have more level twos than anything, and then level threes are the second highest,” says Det. McCoy.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Cory Thomas says around 10% of sex offenders are found to be non-compliant at the time of the surprise visits. Authorities say failure to meet the requirements could land the offender a class c felony charge.
During the two day operation checking 267 registered sex offenders, Deputy Marshal Thomas says the agencies were unable to reach 34 offenders in Sebastian County.
“End up coming back a little later and getting warrants for them,” says Deputy Marshal Thomas.
Parents say they feel safe knowing the agencies are enforcing the law.
“With two small children, you kind of want to know where these offenders are living, and I myself get like a notification on my email to let me know if anybody is near,” says mother of two Kim Vongphachanh.
On the Fort Smith Police website, you can find information on where sex offenders live. Apps are also available on smartphones.
“This is a good thing for the community to let the citizens of Fort Smith and the surrounding areas know that hey, we’re out, we’re checking on these sex offenders, and we’re doing our job,” says Deputy Marshal Thomas.
Officers will spend the next several days checking up on the unverified offenders. The U.S. Marshals say they anticipate additional charges with more arrests in the next few weeks as a result of the operation.
Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Department of Community Correction, Barling Police, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Smith Police, Lavaca Police, and Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office assisted the U.S. Marshal’s Service in Operation Gateway.
Below is the link to the sex offender tracker with FSPD: