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Katherine Grandstrand, Forum News Service, Published October 30 2013

14 arrested in multiagency sweep of Stark County for sex offenders

DICKINSON, N.D. - A multiagency sweep and effort to make sure all sex offenders are in compliance with state and federal law netted 14 arrests this week.

The Dickinson Police Department partnered with the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service for “Operation Guardian,” the first multi-agency sweep of its kind for the police department, and checked with 75 known sex offenders Monday, Tuesday and into Wednesday in Stark County, Dickinson police Sgt. Kylan Klauzer said.

The team was unable to make contact with nine people who were deemed noncompliant.

“Many individuals were registered, but as time goes on and they’ve been and gone, they’re not in compliance with state law,” Klauzer said.

North Dakota state law requires sex offenders to register with their local law enforcement agency within three business days of moving to the state or changing jobs, schools or residences once established in the state, said Dan Orr, chief deputy U.S. marshal for the North Dakota district, from his Fargo office.

When moving, offenders must notify their current jurisdiction of the move, who will then contact the new police or sheriff’s department. If contact has not been made within the allotted time, red flags go up for law enforcement in the offenders’ destination area.

As the oil boom has drawn more people to western North Dakota, so has it drawn sex offenders, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said from his Bismarck office.

As of Wednesday, there were 254 more registered sex offenders in the state of North Dakota than last year at the same time, Stenehjem said. The majority — about 90 percent — have moved here from another state.

“If they don’t comply with state and federal law, we will enforce the mandatory minimums for failure to register,” Stenehjem said.

Sex offenders fall into three categories: low-, medium- and high-risk. A low-risk offender faces the same punishment as a high-risk offender for failure to register, Stenehjem said.

There are 22 sex offenders within Stark County who are not under the jurisdiction of the Dickinson Police Department or the Belfield Police Department, Stark County sheriff’s Capt. Dean Franchuk said. The sheriff’s office tries to have face-to-face contact with those people on a monthly basis.

U.S. marshals can get involved with sex offender cases when offenders were originally convicted in federal court, state-convicted offenders cross state lines or if they are traveling in and out of Indian reservations, Orr said. Part of the reason the marshals got involved in Dickinson’s Operation Guardian was the high amount of out-of-state offenders moving to North Dakota.

Orr said there was a similar operation about a month ago in Willison where 124 offenders were checked. There were 20 investigations opened and two arrests made.

Two years ago, the U.S. marshals sponsored a program similar to Operation Guardian, Klauzer said. The federal office paid the overtime and provided other resources that allowed officers to check on offenders face-to-face. This, however, is the first time all four agencies have banded together to complete the mission.

Requiring local law enforcement to keep tabs on offenders in their jurisdiction keeps them from becoming repeat offenders, Stenehjem said. Those with full-time jobs and a stable residence are less likely to reoffend, knowing local law enforcement is always on the lookout and will be checking in.

The attorney general’s office hosts the online sex offender registration, where the public can get information about the high-risk and lifetime sex offenders in their area, Stenehjem said.

“As soon as local law enforcement submit the paperwork to our office, it goes up on the website,” Stenehjem said.

A law passed by the state Legislature in the last biennium allows the attorney general’s office to cross-reference the national sex offender registry with job applicants through North Dakota Jobs Service, Stenehjem said.

It will take factors like previous residence and Social Security number into account as well as names. Sometimes, however, offenders slip through the cracks.

“If you see something, say something,” Klauzer said. Concerned citizens noticing suspicious people near schools or parks have led to the police catching unregistered sex offenders in the past.

Visit www.sexoffender.nd.gov to check the state sex offender registry.