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Most new sex offenders in ND from other states

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Most new sex offenders in ND from other states
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GRAND FORKS – More than four out of every five new sex offenders in North Dakota are coming from out of state, according to numbers from the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office.

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The state began officially distinguishing between sex offenders from North Dakota and those who moved here with a sex offense in September 2013. Numbers from then through July 30 show that 263 of the 316 sex offenders registered during that period came from out of state.

That’s more than 83 percent.

When asked about the cause of this trend, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the population draw of the Bakken oil boom was “a big part of it.” The 83 percent figure was a “pretty dramatic jump” from years past, he said.

The number also might not include those who have failed to register with local law enforcement after moving to North Dakota from another state or moving within the state. If an offender fails to register, he or she cannot be tracked, but can face additional prison time.

Last November, a multi-agency sweep in Stark County resulted in 14 arrests of sex offenders not complying with federal and state registration laws after 75 offenders were checked by law enforcement.

More equals less?

The number of out-of-state offenders comes as no surprise in light of the population explosion caused by the oil boom.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that North Dakota’s population rose by 22,000 people in 2013, while state officials said about 45,000 nonpermanent residents lived in temporary housing in the state in 2013, up from 31,000 in 2012.

Despite a population increase and a 5.5 percent increase in North Dakota crime from 2012 to 2013, sex crime figures don’t necessarily follow the trend.

While North Dakota saw 85 more aggravated assault reports in 2013 than in 2012, rapes decreased 2.5 percent from 243 in 2012 to 237 in 2013. Within the state’s 12 oil counties, the decrease was much sharper – down 17 percent. And in Williams County, the amount of violent crimes committed per 100,000 people was down in 2013, if nonpermanent residents are included in the population.

Even with sex crimes down, the state still must work to keep up with the increase in out-of-state sex offenders coming to the area. Fortunately, a new source of funding will help the state continue to update its tracking process.

Federal funding

At the end of July, it was announced that the state attorney general’s office would receive more than $30,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice for its programs related to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

Stenehjem said the funding comes from an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant the state applied for. He added that the funding will go toward improving mapping and tracking features of the state’s sex offender website.

Stenehjem said one feature the state will add to the website is a new mapping feature that will show all of an offender’s addresses. While the current registry has only one address listed for each offender, he said he’d like to see a system where an offender’s work address, home address and the address of any other residence be added.

With the additional funding, Stenehjem said the state will be able to keep up the meticulous system of updating addresses and information for offenders, especially for out-of state offenders for whom the state must request out-of-state criminal records in order to specify the nature of each person’s offense.

Stenehjem said every time an offender changes addresses or employment, his office is notified by local law enforcement agencies and must then update the sex offender registry.

He estimated there were 35,000 updates to the system last year, adding that it’s worth the tedious process to keep the community well-informed on offenders.

“That’s why I really like our website,” he said.

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Garrett Richie
Garrett Richie is a general assignment reporter and digital writer for The Grand Forks Herald. Richie is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is formerly of The Ludington Daily News in Ludington, Mich. Have a good story idea? Contact Richie by either phone or email, both of which are listed below. If you would like to comment on a story, send a letter to the editor with Richie's name and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words, and all letters are subject to editing. Email to letters@gfherald.com or mail to The Grand Forks Herald.
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