Sex offenders living in Allen County could soon pay for their crimes in more ways than one.
The Allen County Commissioners on Friday are expected to consider an ordinance that would require sex offenders to pay an annual $50 registration fee, most of which would be used to offset the cost of maintaining the county's registry of sexual and violent offenders. A $5 fee would also be imposed each time an offender changes address.
Had the fees been in place last year, the county would have received about $21,000, according to Sheriff Ken Fries.
As The News-Sentinel reported in 2009, county police are unable to track the whereabouts of the hundreds of registered sex offenders living here. At the time, there were about 650 such offenders who, because of multiple moves, produced 1,794 addresses. But police were able to verify only 1,127 of those addresses, in part because the number of offenders living in the county had increased 26 percent in the previous three years.
About 440 registered offenders live in Allen County now, Fries said. State law requires police to maintain up-to-date photographs and addresses of registered offenders, which are also included on a registry open to public scrutiny. Offenders whose whereabouts are unknown could pose a threat to the public, police say.
Ninety percent of the money collected under the ordinance would go to the county's sex and violent offender administration fund. The remainder would go to a similar state fund. Offenders who fail to pay could face a fine of $100 plus court costs.
Commissioner Therese Brown said the proposal is also in response to concerns expressed by some County Council members last year that the Sheriff's Department had requested $1.6 million more than originally budgeted but was not doing everything possible to generate additional revenues.
"This should have been done a long time ago. That's why I went to the county attorney (to request it)," Fries said. "Anything that brings in revenue helps." Adoption of local sex-registry fees was authorized by the state four years ago, Brown said.
Although many recently released offenders have little money, Fries said no exceptions will be made for inability to pay the fees. "We might give them a week or two, but they might have to ask their families or others for help," he added.