Keeping tabs on registered sex offenders

As of 7 a.m. last Wednesday, there were 152 registered sex offenders in Erie County.
Melissa Topey
Sep 9, 2013
For the most part, Erie County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Westcott is responsible for making sure the sheriff’s department keeps track of them all.

I joined Westcott one morning last week for an On the Job segment, hitting the road as we verified the addresses of just a few of the many sex offenders. “Most, I do not lose sleep over,” Westcott said. “But a handful, I do.”

He worries mainly about the repeat offenders, and those who are registered as sexual predators. He also worries about the ones who don’t have strong support systems at home.

After 27 years in law enforcement — 13 of them overseeing the sex offender registrations — Westcott has developed something of a gut instinct to help identify the people who are apt to offend again.

When a registered sex offender provides a false address or fails to register, it’s a felony, and it can result in jail or prison time. The sentence often depends on the seriousness of the original crime that landed him or her on the list. During his rounds one day last week, Westcott was checking up on Amos Richardson, Michael Cromley and Robert Nelson. All three are registered and in compliance with the laws that regulate their movement and actions, but Westcott routinely spends part of his afternoons verifying the addresses of sex offenders.

If there’s an empty lot at an address a registered offender provides, for instance, that’s a problem. Westcott said he wants to see the person, in person, as often as possible.

Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Act are key in governing the way society handles sex offenders, such as their requirements for reporting to authorities once they’re released from prison or jail. Some offenders have to report more often, visiting the sheriff’s office in person and providing their current address. The Adam Walsh Act also prohibits offenders from living too close to a school or state-registered day care.

Westcott has to know the details of both laws.

Richardson was last known to stay on Tiffin Avenue, and he had previously stayed at a home on McEwen Street. We didn’t see him when we drove by the Tiffin Avenue home, so Westcott though he might be hanging around his former home.

When we stopped by McEwen Street, a woman there said Richardson was no longer a resident, and she hadn’t seen him. We continued our search.

Cromley has an address on East Adams Street, where he sleeps, but he often spends his days about the city, Westcott said.

Quite often, Cromley is found downtown on Columbus Avenue, although on the weekends he typically stays with a relative in Huron, Westcott said. Still, he knows he has to be back in Sandusky before 72 hours elapses.

Westcott said he always sees Cromley back in the city before Monday. We drove by the East Adams Street apartment looking for him, but didn’t see him. We eventually spotted him walking down Washington Street.

“He’s harmless,” Westcott said.

Nelson is homeless, which could normally present a problem in locating someone, but Westcott knows his habits, and he can usually find him quickly.

Westcott said he’ll often drive by Shoreline Park and Jackson Street Pier looking for those on the list. We never found Nelson on Wednesday, but the following day Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth saw him. Nelson then went to sheriff’s office to meet with Westcott, to verify he was still in compliance with law.

There are variety of sex offenders on Westcott’s list — all different professions, socioeconomic backgrounds, race, ages and various characteristics.

“I don’t judge these people,” Westcott said. “I’ve been doing this long enough that I am understanding.”

Comments

Sandusksquach

Most of them are regular Register commentators.

JMOP

Thank you Capt. Westcott

margaritaville88

Agree !!

margaritaville88

If one of them were near my kids...we have lot's of hunting gear..just sayin

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I am going to play a bit of Devil's Advocate here as this is a sensitive issue and one that affects (or will affect) young people greatly. The label of "sexual offender" and that special "Facebook" page you get all to yourself that comes with it doesn't always mean the person violently raped a woman, downloaded and helped distribute a terabyte of child porn, or was a ten-year-plus molester of his family or neighborhood. Nor does it mean they are a constant threat to society. Those are the "easy" and clear-cut cases.

There is A LOT of territory in the sex offender category as well as differences in prosecution and severity of the punishment.

This is ESPECIALLY dangerous among young people who are a part of the social media culture as "sexting" and picture/file sharing can land you with a big S.O. after your name. Just as well if one person in a relationship is 18 or older but the other is younger (I do not have a law degree nor want to rely on Wikipedia as a primary source, though it listed the difference in age as 1,060 days) that can ruin a young life/lives with a felony charge and those magic letters hanging over you.

Heck, you can use a file sharing site and think you are downloading one thing and get...something quite, quite different. All that happened was that someone changed the filename to say "how to repair a radiator" and a whole other video of car activity is the content. Content that is now on your computer and can be traced to you downloading it.

I digress, there are many more examples of things that are accidents or that weren't purposely supposed to be harmful but landed the person in the position they are in. That position, especially if you aren't a complete scumbag like a clear-cut Ariel Castro, makes life VERY hard after sentencing. After the arrest, trial, and any jail time you can still face parole and even if you don't have to report to a parole officer any more you still have to report to the county. Fortunately as much as I have known of Captain Wescott before and especially here after the story we are fortunate to have someone who understands this as the man on the job.

But think about it from their shoes (not Castro's, from a much lesser offender's). You now not only have a felony on record but ALSO a sexual offender status for several years to life. You have to report where you live, where you work, where you volunteer, and face other restrictions else it is jail for you. Good luck getting a job or trying to otherwise integrate back into society through many standard fronts!

I'm not asking for these classifications to be stricken from law and neither am I a completely emotional bleeding heart about this. But I think that sometimes a bit of understanding is involved that someone may have made a poor choice (even if NO physical contact was involved) and been hit with an offender status that will forever haunt them despite every other effort afterwards to live a civil, decent, and corrected life.

TL;DR: there are some that you should well keep your gear handy, but there are others who are probably doing their best to live a decent life as best they can having made an embarrassing, shameful, and/or stupid mistake. It isn't easy to tell which is which, but please don't be too quick to reach for the gear.

Nemesis

The majority of sex offender designations are for completely consensual acts between two teens in a relationship who happen to fall on opposite sides of an arbitrary age. Once people have served their time, they need to be free to rejoin society. If they still represent a danger, then the sentence needs to be longer - don't let them out.

sandusky2012

what ever happened to the sex offender / sandusky police officer fitzpatrick?

Centauri

"what ever happened to the sex offender / sandusky police officer fitzpatrick?"

http://mugshots.com/US-Counties/...

http://www.familywatchdog.us/Vie...

http://www.icrimewatch.net/offen...

LuckOfTheIrish

A little FYI www.familywatchdog.us is an amazing tool to see registered sex offenders by location.
It also compares crime rates in your location versus national average.

bigbirdblue

i live on mcewen and that richardson guy was a loud mouth always fightin with someone. thank god he is gone to many kids runing roung

huronguy

Aren't they suppose to live so many yards AWAY from schools and parks?

007

I believe they have to live at least 1000 feet from a school.

pptrsha

hero zone you are absolutely right.years ago my brother in law was 15 and his girlfriend was 12 when he was 18 she was 15 she got pregnant . SHE was the one who was judged nobody thought he had done anything wrong.i overheard a conversation about how she had TRAPPED him! they eventually got married and they have grandchildren now. he could have been labeled S.O. and gone to jail and their story would have been so different.

he said she said

On the Sheriff's department web site, there is a section that a sex offender can be looked up. You can even put your own address in and see how many offenders live around you and where they live.

The one thing that bothers me is that the offender doesn't always live at the address that is listed for them.

jrworthone

people wonder why there are so many repeat offenders and kids attacked, i personally know offenders that are suppose to live at one address and get their mail there, and live with girlfriends in places they arent suppose to live, but as long as the people that are at the residence they claim to live at are vouching for them thats as far as it goes!! it has to be one of the easiest laws to break and not get caught!!! what a shame!!