By Kelsey Penrose
While the majority of states in the U.S. have requirements by law for where sex offenders, especially sex offenders with child victims, can live or congregate, Nevada doesn’t. That has led to a number of convicted sex offenders registering their location as parks or even intersections, some near schools.
“They can register a park, a certain cross street; they can register as ‘I sleep under the Kietzke Bridge,’” said Bob Harmon, public information officer with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s the law. It’s an important point for those who are transient, so that law enforcement can locate them.”
He said that under Nevada statutes, registered sex offenders must check in every 30 days with where they could be found by law enforcement agencies during a “reasonable time,” such as during the daytime working hours.
It is legal for transient sex offenders to register their residential addresses at nearly any describable location, and many registered offenders in the community have made use of these statues to register at these public locations or the community shelter where they sleep.
The Nevada Revised Statute can be found under section 179D.151, which states: “If the offender or sex offender has no fixed residence, the address of any dwelling that is providing the offender or sex offender temporary shelter, or any other location where the offender or sex offender habitually sleeps, including, but not limited to, the cross streets, intersection, direction and identifiable landmarks of the city, county, state and zip code of that location.”
Of the transient registered sex offenders throughout the Reno-Sparks area, many are registered at or near the Record Street Shelter or the overflow shelter. Still others are registered at parks, including Paradise, John Champion, Pickett, Deer and Wingfield parks.
According to the state’s sex offender registry, the crimes of registered offenders who have registered their locations at parks, shelters or intersections include: sexual assault against a child under 16; sexual assault and rape; lewdness with a child under 14; attempted lewdness with a minor; sexual exploitation of a minor; statuary sexual seduction; sexual abuse of a child; and various other related or similar crimes.
Living close to children and schools
What stands out in the registry is that a large majority of these sexual offenders registering at public areas have been convicted of sexual crimes against children, and yet are able to register in areas near schools. For example, those offenders convicted of sexual crimes against children who are registered on Record Street are within 1 to 2 miles of over a dozen public and private schools, ranging from pre-schools to high schools.
Two separate offenders at two different addresses accused of lewd/lascivious acts with a child under 14 are registered at residences within 0.3 miles of Smithridge Elementary School.
While there are 37 states in the union that restrict where sex offenders can live when it comes to schools, parks and daycares, Nevada is not one of them. There are no laws in Nevada that restrict sex offenders, even sex offenders with child victims, from where they can live or congregate. This makes it legal for criminal sexual offenders to register their addresses at local public parks, despite the fact that it is a location children can and do congregate.
According to NRS 179D.460, a sex offender who resides in any area for 48 hours or more is considered a resident offender and must register with the local sheriff’s office or police department immediately or risk being taken into custody for violating the terms of registration.
In Reno, there are currently 979 registered sex offenders, according to the Nevada State Sex Offender Registry. That breaks down to one offender for every 251 residents.
That ratio is higher than for Sparks, which has 249 registered sex offenders (one for every 395 residents), and is bested only by Sun Valley (one for every 226 residents) and Verdi (one for every 169 residents).
Spanish Springs has the highest ratio, or least amount of registered sex offenders by population, at 8,296 residents to one.
Thousands more unregistered and untracked
What some may find far more concerning than those who are registering their locations at parks and intersections, however, are the nearly 2,500 sex offenders known to be residing in Nevada who are unregistered.
According to the Nevada Department of Public Safety, as of Feb. 4, 2020, there are 2,433 registered sex offenders being tracked by the state’s Sex Offender Registry who have not complied with the address re-verification process or are known to reside in Nevada and have not registered as a sex offender.
Another 456 known sex offenders residing in Nevada have failed to register with the department, and 57 known offenders have given false or misleading information regarding their residences or employment.
Crimes of those offenders not in compliance range from indecent exposure and child pornography to assault of a minor, sexual abuse, lewdness and attempted lewdness with a minor and incest.
Failing to register as a sex offender in Nevada carries a Category D felony for the first offense, which can range from one to four years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine, but the judge may grant probation in lieu of incarceration at their discretion.
For subsequent failures, it results in a category C felony with one to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, and judges are not allowed discretion when it comes to granting probation.
As to why there are so many known but unregistered sex offenders listed on the state database, Harmon had no answer, as law dictates they must be registered.
The Nevada Department of Public Safety Nevada Sex Offender Registry could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.