FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. (WHNT)– The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office wants to make sure you get a good look at sex offenders who may live in your neighborhood.
You can always use the Tennesee Bureau of Investigations website to view them, but in a community meeting some rural residents told county leaders they don’t have access to that.
“Sex offenders were in the area and the people weren’t able to be notified because they didn’t have computers, or access to computers or the internet,” said Sandra Metcalf, Sex Offender Registrar at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
Metcalf and Sheriff Murray Blackwelder brought this to the attention of state representatives, and helped craft House Bill 1860, which passed and was signed into law last June.
With that in place, cities and counties voluntarily establish a community notification system for sexual offenders, create a notification fee to be administered to sex offenders in order to pay for it, and define where to put the notifications so the public can see them.
“It gives people an awareness they didn’t [all] have before,” said Blackwelder.
In Lincoln County right now, notices about registered sex offenders including their names, addresses, offenses, and photos are distributed through LCD monitors placed in the courthouse and sheriff’s office.
Later, letters, mailers, newspaper postings, and other means will be used to get the word out.
“That gives us the ability to catch everyone at some point in time,” said Blackwelder. “It’s a slow process, but we’re going to get it out there.”
Metcalf said it took a lot of work to get this in place, including deputies traveling to each offender’s home to confirm where they live.
Right now, this notification system only distributes the information for offenders monitored by the sheriff’s office.
“[We are] educating the people, wanting them to know what’s going on around them,” said Metcalf.
The funding for the notifications comes from a yearly fee all sex offenders must pay. It may take a while to get all the means of notification in place while the money rolls in.
Sheriff Blackwelder said Lincoln County played a huge part in getting the law passed.
“It’s satisfying to see it from start to finish,” he said.