BAXTER COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - A new law in Arkansas is improving public safety when it comes to notifying the public of a sex offender. Now, officers have the power to immediately notify citizens when a sex offender moves into their area. Before the new law, officers had their hands tied until the individual was assessed.
Traveling by foot, Officers with the Baxter County Sheriff's department made the rounds through one neighborhood to alert citizens of a new law that affects them. "This was a piece of legislation that we pushed really hard down the legislative session this time to get passed. It simply says when a sex offender moves in from out of state, we can immediately notify that public," said Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery.
He says this is a huge step for public safety. Before, when a sex offender moved into the area from another state, police were not allowed to notify people in the neighborhood until the individual was assessed and assigned a risk level. The problem was sometimes that could take as long as six to eight months.
"They've done everything that they are suppose to do. So they're complying with the law, but I'm not allowed to tell you. And when you find out, you're upset with the sheriff's department because "you mean you've known this for six to eight months and you didn't tell me." Well, I didn't tell you because would allow me to tell you," said Montgomery.
Montgomery says they only had one sex offender in the county that has yet to be assessed, and they didn't waste anytime to get out and make it known to the public.
As officers went around, we talked with some of the people in the neighborhood to get their thoughts on the new law.
"I feel a lot safer with kids around," said neighbor Shawna Gould.
"I think that's great, because I have grandchildren that live one door down," said Terry Cunningham, and adds when you live in a neighborhood, you want to know who's living around you. "That would have been real scary for them to live there for months and my grandchildren come over here to play. And I haven't even talked to him. So I wouldn't have known," said Cunningham.
Montgomery says a list of all the sex offenders in the county are listed on the sheriff's department website at www.baxtercountysheriff.com