By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
Michael Cossman went back to prison this month. One of 57 registered sex offenders in Marion County, according to state records, Cossman, convicted of a 2010 charge of indecency with a child, had failed to properly register.
Sheriff David McKnight believes the number of registered sex offenders in Marion County, 0.57% of the population, is comparable to neighboring counties.
“The number of cases here is in proportion with our surrounding area,” McKnight said. State records show Harrison County with 186 offenders (0.28%), Cass County with 130 offenders (0.43%) and Morris County with 55 (0.46%). Texas has more than 66,000 registered.
Harrison County has a 66,000 population. Cass County has 30,000 population and Morris County has 12,000. These compare to Marion County’s 10,000 population. California leads the country in the number of offenders with Florida in second place. Texas is third. The World Atlas notes the United States has 747,000 registered sex offenders.
More than 900,000 children have been molested. McKnight said his office actively pursues all complaints. “With most sex-related crimes, someone has made a complaint,” McKnight explained. “When it comes to our attention, we are very active.
”The sheriff has noticed a trend in the victims. “Sadly, most are children,” McKnight said. “I can safely say a sizeable majority of the victims are children.” If the victim is a child, special steps are taken.
“If a child makes an outcry,” McKnight said, “a child advocacy expert interviews the child 100 percent of the time. This puts the child in a more comfortable situation.” McKnight believes most of the offenders are home-grown, but outsiders who moved to the area are also on the list.
“It’s a mixture,” McKnight said. Jefferson Police Chief Gary Amburn said only a handful of the registered sex offenders live inside the city limits of Jefferson. “We have only three or four,” Amburn said. “They have not been a problem in the city.”
McKnight credits the Texas Department of Public Safety “Sex Offender Compliance Round Up” for helping the county keep tabs on resident offenders. DPS officers go out with deputies to visit registered sex offenders to ensure they comply with the terms of their release from prison or probation.
“We do go into the house,” McKnight said. “We make sure they have no girly magazines, check their computers and social media devices. They have to give us their email, telephone number, vehicle registration, employment information and social media names, as well as the address where they live.”
According to a local defense attorney, failure to obey each and every one of these requirements can result in a separate charge of a sex offender’s duty to register. While some sheriff department web sites maintain photos of local sex offenders or a link to the state database, McKnight believes the DPS web site has the information people want and is “simple to navigate.”
To access a list of registered sex offenders with their photos and find out whether they are a low, medium or high risk threat, a person should go to www.dps.texas.gov. Select the sex offender registry search. Select search. Under map address, enter a street address or a general area like “Marion County.”
You can also enter the name under registered sex offender. Select mapped or unmapped. On the site, a visitor can see charges against the person, their age, where they live and more information. Those thinking sex offenders were caught in a “Romeo and Juliet” web will quickly see the nature of the offenses listed on the site.
McKnight noted if the age difference between a young couple was three years or less and the girl was over 16, the boy would probably not be listed. “It’s still a crime,” McKnight said, “but it is a defense to prosecution.”
As far as the ones on the Marion County list of registered sexual offenders, McKnight took one piece of cold comfort. “Fortunately, most of ours are low to medium risk,” he said.
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