Most states now require convicted sex offenders to register with their county sheriff’s department. Seven years ago, the New Mexico State Legislature enacted such a law in the belief that sex offenders pose a significant risk of recidivism.
The law was established on July 1, 1995, in response to the efforts of law enforcement agencies to protect their communities from sex offenders. Their efforts had been impaired by the lack of information available concerning convicted sex offenders who live within the agencies’ jurisdictions.
New Mexico has also followed other states in creating a website that lists every convicted sex offender who has been released from jail or is on parole or probation and lives in the state. The database is updated on a regular basis, showing the public pictures, addresses and other vital information about convicted sex offenders who may live in their neighborhoods.
“I think the public needs to be aware, but not paranoid,” said Valencia County Sheriff’s Lt. David Carr. “Everybody needs to be aware of their surroundings and of what’s happening in their neighborhoods.”
Every Wednesday, the sheriff’s department invites convicted sex offenders to come in and register or re-register. Of the 65,000 people who live in Valencia County, there are 50 convicted sex offenders who have registered with the sheriff’s department.
Carr said the majority of the registered sex offenders in Valencia County realize why they have to register. But there are still a few who are breaking the law by not registering with the sheriff’s department.
The department currently holds three outstanding warrants for people who have failed to register. Two of the three men who are wanted for failing to register moved into the county this year, deputies said.
According to state law, “a sex offender who willfully fails to comply with the registration requirements is guilty of a fourth-degree felony” and a sex offender to fails to notify the sheriff’s department of his intent to move to another state is guilty of a misdemeanor.
“Last year, a man was arrested for failing to report he was moving from Valencia County to Socorro County,” Carr said. “He’s now doing 18 months in prison for failing to report to us or to the Socorro County Sheriff’s Department.”
Not all convicted sex offenders are required to register, Carr said. But those who are convicted of the more serious sex offenses must register within 10 days of establishing residency and are required to update their information every year.
An offender convicted of criminal sexual penetration in the first or second degree, criminal sexual contact of a minor in the third degree or sexual exploitation of children is required to renew registration every year for 20 years.
A sex offender who is convicted of criminal sexual penetration in the third or fourth degree, criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree, criminal sexual contact of a minor in the fourth degree, sexual exploitation of children by prostitution or solicitation to commit criminal sexual contact of a minor is required to renew his registration every year for the next 10 years.
Although tracking down those people who have not registered in the county is not on the top of sheriff’s department’s list of priorities, Carr says it’s very important that these men come in and register.
“We have to notify every school and day care every year as to which sex offenders live in their area,” Carr said. “We are not responsible to remind these guys that they have to register. They need to remind themselves or else they will be arrested and charged.”
When a convicted sex offender does register, he or she is required to renew information, including a legal name and aliases, date of birth, Social Security number and current address. The person registering will also be required to list his or her place of employment, the sex offense for which he or she was convicted, the date and place of the conviction and provide a description of tattoos, scars or other distinguishing features.
A new photograph and a complete set of fingerprints is also taken each year.
The New Mexico Department of Public Safety maintains the website that identifies sex offenders who are registered. For more information, visit the website at www.nmsexoffender.dps.state.nm.us
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.