Archive for Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Sheriff praises crime initiatives

Zoellner fovrs expanding state’s sex-offender registry

April 6, 2005

Last week, the Kansas Legislature approved a bill that would strengthen laws governing people who prey on children.

The legislation, which was sent to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, also would increase the statute of limitations for most crimes from two years to five years. The bill also increases the sentence for indecent solicitation of a child and aggravated indecent solicitation of a child under 14 to make prison time a greater certainty. Also, prosecutors can charge those possessing child pornography images with a crime for each image.

¢ The Kansas Bureau of Investigation's Web site, www.accesskansas.org/kbi lists people throughout Kansas who have been ordered to register because they were convicted of sex crimes or other violent crimes.

¢ Of the 58 Leavenworth County residents whose names, addresses, photographs and other identifying information are on the registry, 54 of them were convicted of sex crimes.

¢ Of the 58 county residents on the registry:

¢ Six list Tonganoxie addresses, both in the city and rural. All six of them were convicted of sex crimes.

¢ Three of them list Basehor addresses. Two of the addresses currently are being confirmed, while the other is a rural Basehor address.

¢ One lists a rural McLouth address and was convicted of a sex crime.

¢ One lists a rural Linwood address.

¢ Three list Easton addresses, both rural and in the city. And one was convicted of a non-sex crime.

¢ A total of 35 list Leavenworth addresses, both in the city and rural. Three of those were convicted of non-sex crimes.

¢ Eight list Lansing addresses. All of those were convicted of sex crimes.

¢ One lists a Fort Leavenworth address.

The legislation, which has drawn praise from the Kansas attorney general, also earned high marks with Leavenworth County Sheriff Dave Zoellner.

"I think, obviously, crimes have changed a lot from back in the old days," Zoellner said. "Technology has really dictated a lot of things. It's amazing what can be done, through technology, to commit crimes."

And law enforcement, including prosecutors, must react to that -- both in terms of investigations and additional teeth in laws, such as the one sent to the governor last week.

The portion of the law that extends the statute of limitations on some crimes also is a plus for law enforcement, Zoellner said.

"When it comes to investigations that require a long time, I think that's where it will help," he said. "Two years seems like a long time, but really it isn't. Some crimes now are more technical. It gives more opportunity to collect evidence and evaluate it."

And Zoellner underscored that suspects also could benefit -- depending on their guilt or innocence -- with additional time for investigation.

"Maybe the suspect that you're looking at really isn't the suspect you should be looking at," the sheriff said.

The Legislature also has been working on a bill that would expand the state's online registry for sex offenders and other violent criminals.

Kansas allows the public to track sex offenders and other violent criminals on an online registry at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's Web site: www.accesskansas.org/kbi. But as the law now stands, the site contains only offenders whose crimes happened after April 1994.

The Legislature has been debating whether to make the Web site retroactive to convictions as early as 1985, which would roughly double the size of the 3,100-person list.

A total of 58 who live in Leavenworth County are on the KBI's registry. And 54 of those were convicted of sex crimes.

Zoellner said he favors expansion of the state's registry system.

"I think awareness is a big key," he said. "I think people (offenders) have a right to live, but I think people, especially those with children, have the right to know they have a sex offender living in the neighborhood. My thing is: If it can prevent one abduction or murder of a child, wherever it may be, I'm all for it."

A key ingredient for making methamphetamine no longer will be within easy reach of the public under legislation sent last week to Sebelius. Directed at meth makers, the bill was a compromise worked out by House and Senate negotiators. The Senate approved it 39-0. The House vote was 119-2.

The new law will be named for Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels, who was shot and killed Jan. 19 at a home near Virgil where a suspected meth lab was found. It will require certain cold and allergy tablets containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine to be sold only by pharmacies from behind a counter. Customers will have to show identification and sign a log book. It makes it illegal for retailers to sell more than three packages within a week to a person. The Sudafed-type items will be disappearing behind the counter by summer.

The measure is patterned after an Oklahoma law credited in that state with dramatically reducing meth lab seizures. Kansas law enforcement agencies reported seizing 583 labs last year, down from 847 in 2001.

And anything that helps reduce the number of methamphetamine labs is a benefit, according to Zoellner.

"It should make my job easier," he said. "But since we're close to the state line, to really work here, it needs to be law in Missouri and Nebraska."

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