MySpace enlisted to flush out sex offenders

Sheriffs' offices are getting behind a movement to make MySpace more accountable for sex offe
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


Sheriffs’ offices are getting behind a movement to make MySpace more accountable for sex offenders.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, along with seven other state attorneys general, sent a letter Monday asking the company by May 29 to release names and the states of all sex offenders who are using the social networking Web site.

“In the future I see something going into effect that would involve each county,” said Maj. Thomas Fligor of the Sandusky County Sheriff’s office. “It’s going to be useful for any county. That is something that will benefit all law enforcement across the nation, not just the state of Ohio.”

In December, MySpace announced it is working with Sentinel Tech Holding, an online offender verification company, to identify registered sex offenders.

If MySpace hands over names of registered offenders, the state would distribute the information to each of Ohio’s 88 counties, according to Michelle Gatchell, spokeswoman for Dann.

“It’s our hope that MySpace comes up with a plan so that they can better monitor users to protect children,” she said.

MySpace is most frequently used by teens and young adults. The Web site requires an user’s e-mail address, birth date, country, postal code, gender and first and last name to become a member of the network — meaning sex offenders can easily register, too.

By law , sex offenders must notify the county sheriff’s office when they move. In addition to where they live, offenders are required to register where they work and go to school.

In Sandusky County, there are 82 active offenders. In nearby Huron County, 87 are registered.

Fligor noted at least one occasion where his office received a call about a sex offender on MySpace, which was then handed over to the detective bureau.

Offenders who move between counties or states keep the figures ever-changing.

“Numbers change almost daily, it all depends on who gets out of prison,” Fligor said.

When searching for an offender, all inquiries are handed over to the county detective bureau for additional investigation.

In Erie County, there are 145 registered sex offenders.

This number is up from 88 registered offenders eight years ago, according to Capt. Steven Westcott. He attributed the increase to changes in sex offender laws.

According to Chief Deputy Randy Riedmaier, there are 68 registered offenders, including seven juveniles, in Ottawa County.

“It has increased steadily, not at a rapid rate, in the past couple years,” Riedmaier said.

County officials see the attorney generals’ MySpace request as help in their own record keeping.

Other states requesting the information are Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Registered sex offenders, by county

Erie  -  145

Huron  -  87

Ottawa  -  68

Sandusky  -  82

— Source: County sheriffs’ offices