Monday, January 14, 2008

AL Sex offender crosses state lines

Sex Offenders: No Boundaries? We investigate.

Last Update: 12/20/2007 5:51 pm

NBC 15 News has uncovered a new way sex offenders are going unnoticed.

Our investigation began with a story we first reported Tuesday.

Michael South, a convicted sex offender who is registered in Mobile County was caught in Jackson County, Mississippi. Police say he was nude in a park and looking to sexually assualt someone else.

Just 6 weeks ago, South was spotted in that same park, trying to entice a child. South was on probation, so how was he able to cross state lines?

Even though it appears Michael South broke his probation, police say he didn't.

Sex offenders, even ones on probation, only have to check in with officers twice a year in Mobile County. That law made it easy for Michael South to leave his home in Prichard and drive 45 miles across state lines to Jackson County, allegedly commit more sex crimes, and then back again, without anyone ever knowing it.

Everyone in a local mobile home park knows behind one no trespassing sign, is Michael South's home, and that he's a sex offender.

James Washington has 6 kids. "You've got predators living in your neighborhood its pretty scary."

So authorities say South went somewhere else, somewhere he wasn't known.

As we first told you last night, that place was a park in another state- Mississippi.

Police say he walked around naked, trying to lure unsuspecting children while they played.

Back in Prichard, Washington says, "he would leave and come back at night. Pretty much he was never home."

Police say South went back to that park multiple times, and got away with it. Here's why.

Chief Lawrence Battiste of Prichard Police Department says, "It was easy for him to go wherever he needed to go as long as he met the compliance; as far as amount of time he stayed away from his residence." The amount of time sex offenders can leave their home is 3 days, they can go wherever they want, but here's the catch- Offenders don't have to tell authorities. "A lot of times they may leave the jurisdiction and we may not even know they are leaving."

The same goes for Mississippi. Sgt. Mick Sears of Jackson County says offenders can easily go back and forth between states.

"I'm sure it happens all the time. It's easy for them to get lost. They can register at the same address for months at a time and not really be there."

And a way for offenders to slip under the radar and into unsuspecting neighborhoods and parks where there aren't any signs of their criminal pasts.

In Prichard, there are 55 registered sex offenders. Police have lost track of two of them. The rest are in compliance, but again, so was Michael South.

He is charged with trying to entice a child, he could spend up to 20 more years in prison. Police tell us they rely heavily on the public to alert them when a sex offender leaves the area. They say tips are the best way for them to find out.

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