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Deputies search for nearly 500 sex offenders in Ohio

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 10:01 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2022 at 10:31 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Deputies continue to track down missing and wanted sex offenders.

19 Investigates found nearly 500 sex offenders across Ohio are not where they say they are.

And that number is up dramatically over the last few years.

We got an inside look at how deputies keep you safe by keeping tabs on where sex offenders are living.

Deputy Deborah Hurlburt with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office keeps an eye on convicted offenders who served time for everything from rape to child sex crimes.

“It’s not your typical image of a sex offender. We have older men, we have younger men, we have women, middle-aged men,” she said.

Juveniles and homeless people are also registered as sex offenders.

Hurlburt is in the sex offender unit and spends her day driving across Lorain County, going from house to house and knocking on doors.

“I was one of the first deputies that started the unit over ten years ago,” she said.

Deputy Hurlburt knows a routine check could always turn into something dangerous.

“It’s checking, making sure it’s safe, looking for anything unusual. It’s that instinct of being safe in this line of work,” she said.

19 Investigates tagged along with Deputy Hurlburt for compliance checks.

Deputy Deborah Hurlburt was one of the first deputies that started the Lorain County Sheriff's...
Deputy Deborah Hurlburt was one of the first deputies that started the Lorain County Sheriff's Office sex offender unit.(WOIO)

On this day, offenders expected a knock on the door.

But sometimes, these checks are random too.

In Lorain County, two deputies are charged with keeping track of 535 sex offenders.

190 of these offenders are categorized as sexual predators or Tier III sex offenders, which means they have to be checked on every 90 days.

The deputies we spoke with are persistent, out seven days a week to make sure they’re in compliance.

“We’re the fine line between them and the citizens of Lorain County. So it’s our job to make sure our citizens are safe,” said Deputy Jason Smith.

Deputy Smith is the other half of the unit.

He’s seen it all-- sex offenders claiming to live at a friend’s house without their knowledge, and others are homeless and living in the woods.

“Some houses you go there every time, and the offender is there, not a problem. And other times when you go, they’re on a vacant house standing on the porch unable to get in, and they’re trying to claim it’s their residency, and through the course of the investigation, you find they’re being untruthful with you,” he said.

The offenders who continue to lie or dodge deputies are the most concerning to law enforcement.

19 Investigates found there are 477 “missing” sex offenders in Ohio.

This means they have not been found at their registered addresses when deputies check on them.

That’s a 62% increase from May 2021, when there were 294 non-compliant.

Since 19 Investigates first reported on missing sex offenders in May 2019, the number of non-compliant offenders has increased 138%.

We checked on a handful of offenders with deputies in Lorain County.

“So far, with the verifications we’ve done, everyone’s been compliant,” Deputy Hurlburt said.

But at the last stop, there was one possible problem.

“What’s the nearest school here? It’s saying you possibly could be within 1,000 feet,” Hurlburt said to a sex offender undergoing his first compliance check at his house.

19 Investigates mapped it and found this offender is a five-minute walk from a school just down the road.

It’s up to the city to decide what happens next.

And if there is a violation, he will have to move.

Meanwhile, the search is on for those missing and wanted sex offenders.

Deputy Hurlburt said tips from the public could be a huge help.

“What we do, is we have warrants out for them, and then we have our warrant unit, our fugitives and task force with US Marshals, and they start looking for them,” she said.

Once they track them down, they’ll be looking at prison time.

“There are some sex offenders out there that are dangerous. And it’s important for us to keep tabs on them,” Deputy Hurlburt said.

There are several different classifications for sex offenders.

Deputies have to check on those with more serious offenses more often.

Sex offenders must also notify the sheriff’s office if they move.

You can plug in your address and check which sex offenders live near you by checking the state database and local databases.

Registered sex offender searches

-Statewide: Ohio Attorney General’s Office sex offender database

-Lorain County sex offender search

-Cuyahoga County sex offender search

-Summit County sex offender search

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