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Facebook helps Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office capture offenders

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Sep. 3, 2012, at 11:33 p.m.

Since January, authorities have arrested 23 people featured in the Sedgwick County Registered Offender of the Week program.

They are people who have been convicted of some of the most serious crimes, including aggravated indecent liberties with a child, sexual battery, rape and aggravated assault.

Each week, via its Facebook page, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office sends out bulletins on registered offenders because they are wanted on warrants or because they have failed to register.

So far this year, two out of three of those featured have been arrested, said sheriff’s Sgt. Tracy Spreier. The last couple of featured offenders have been arrested within a day or two of being publicized by the sheriff’s office.

Gordon Bassham, executive director of the Wichita Crime Commission and Crime Stoppers, a co-sponsor of the program, said, “We had no idea it would be as successful as it is.” The offender of the week program began about a year ago.

Nine of those featured this year have yet to be caught; their crimes include aggravated solicitation of a child, criminal sodomy and manslaughter.

In Kansas, those convicted of certain violent, sex or drug crimes must register with their local sheriff’s office four times a year. They have to give their addresses, places of employment and vehicle information.

Although state law does not restrict where they live, those who fail to register or give false information can be convicted of a felony.

Spreier oversees the sheriff’s offender registration unit, comprised of himself, three deputies and two clerical workers. Part of their job is to make sure offenders register when they are supposed to and that they provide truthful information.

Sedgwick County’s offender of the week program concentrates on those who have been convicted of violent crimes or sex crimes and who are thought to pose the highest risk, Spreier said.

As of Monday, there were 2,531 registered offenders living in Sedgwick County, of which roughly 1,250 were sex offenders.

Here’s how someone in Sedgwick County can get information on registered offenders: Go to the Sedgwick County sheriff’s website, www.sedgwickcounty.org/sheriff. On the column on the right, click on “Sedgwick County Sheriff Offender Watch.” At the top left, click on “Search for offenders in your area.” You can search by those living near you, by a specific name, or by your city.

Also, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation keeps a statewide offender registry.

Although a registry is a good tool for awareness and crime prevention, “don’t assume that just because you know who the registered offender is” that someone else can’t harm your child, said KBI Deputy Director Kyle Smith. He noted that children are much more apt to be molested by family and friends than by strangers.

In Sedgwick County, sometimes the offender of the week gets arrested as a result of a tip. Other times, sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement agencies track them down.

In one instance, deputies knew the offender was transient or homeless. Authorities notified a shelter that they were looking for the man, and when he came to the shelter one evening, the shelter told deputies. “We went in and apprehended him there,” Spreier said.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com

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