PHOENIX, Ariz. - Arizona law requires sex offenders to update their addresses and photos with law enforcement so residents can check their whereabouts in a public database. However, a 12 News I-Team investigation revealed that nearly 400 sex offenders in the city of Phoenix have registered their addresses at random intersections.
According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, this practice is legal if the offender does not have a permanent address or is homeless.
In a statement sent to 12 News, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said:
“If the person has more than one residence or does not have an address or permanent place of residence, the person shall provide a description and physical location of any temporary residence and shall register as a transient not less than every ninety days with the sheriff in whose jurisdiction the transient is physically present.”
“The homeless populations are much more challenging and just the size of Phoenix and the sheer numbers -- hundreds,” said Jeffeory Hynes, a retired police commander.
Hynes spent 32 years with the Phoenix Police Department and oversaw the Family Investigations Bureau for part of his career.
“We had the sex offender notification unit,” Hynes said.
That unit was also responsible for tracking sex offenders.
“We should be able to find you if you’ve listed that address,” said Hynes. “Local law enforcement’s responsibility to the communities they serve is to verify that that sex offender is where he said he’s going to be.”
12 News sat down with a level two sex offender in Phoenix who was convicted of having sexual contact with a minor under the age of 16. He agreed to speak out on the condition of anonymity.
He used to be homeless and says police never checked in on him.
“If they’re telling the community that’s what we’re doing, they're lying to the community,” he said.
He says law enforcement encouraged him to write down any street corner.
“When I was homeless I had to go ahead and go down to the sheriff’s officer and get on the corner. At first I didn’t understand when the lady said, ‘hey, just give me a corner.’ And I gave her a corner,” he said.
The process was surprising to him.
“If they telling the public that, 'yeah we got them on the corner, we’re checking them out,' I doubt it. Maybe one out of a thousand, maybe,” he said.
Part of the problem, our investigation found, is the process of monitoring sex offenders spans nearly every law enforcement agency in the state. No single agency takes full responsibility.
Arizona Department of Public Safety told 12 News they just operate the sex offender database and it is up to the sheriff’s offices to track offenders. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said their primary role is to notify local police that a sex offender has registered in their city. When 12 News turned to the Phoenix Police Department, they said to contact DPS or the sheriff’s office.
“That finger pointing you just described is very disturbing,” Hynes said.
According to the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department, the homeless sex offenders they supervise are required to wear GPS equipment to assist in their tracking.
12 News found that approximately 15 percent of all offenders in Phoenix have an intersection listed as their address.
For example, Ben Cooley is a level three sex offender in Phoenix, the highest risk level. He was charged with molesting a child under the age of 14. On the state’s sex offender registry, his address is listed as 16th Street and Indian School Road. When 12 News went to that intersection, Cooley was nowhere to be found.
Another example is Ysidro Aragon Jr. He was nabbed for attempted child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor. He’s also a level three sex offender. According to the registry, he lives at 7th Avenue and Broadway Road. 12 News failed to locate him at that intersection.
Despite the obvious flaws in the system, Hynes believes officers are doing everything possible to keep up.
“It’s an issue that they’re very concerned with and they are very actively pursuing,” Hynes said.
Hynes’ suggestion to the public is to check the sex offender registry to see who is on record living near you.