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Police team keeps a close watch on sex offenders
'If they try to duck us or abscond, then they belong back in jail'

By JENNIFER EMILY  /  The Dallas Morning News

In his day job, Steve Johnson sells business analysis software; in his off hours, he is part of a McKinney duo that tracks down and occasionally stakes out sex offenders.

The police reserve officer, assisted by McKinney police records clerk Dottie Lutz, checks in on the city's 53 registered sex offenders. They send those who break the law back to jail.

State law requires sex offenders to register with local authorities within seven days of moving. Sometimes they don't. McKinney officials decided the typical annual and sometimes quarterly checks weren't enough, and asked Officer Johnson and other reserve officers to make more house calls.

Now, Officer Johnson and Ms. Lutz begin looking for delinquent sex offenders on the eighth day.

"It's rewarding to get these guys off the street. If they comply, I have no problem," said Officer Johnson, a licensed peace officer who lives in Carrollton. "But if they try to duck us or abscond, then they belong back in jail. They have to do what the law says."

Sex offenders all over the country are required to register, but police agencies struggle to keep updated records as offenders move without notification. The Texas Department of Public Safety keeps an online database of all registered offenders, but the information relies on offender compliance and police agencies' varying abilities to track them.

Always on track

In McKinney, Ms. Lutz searches for paper and electronic trails in the police department's records for Officer Johnson, 52, to follow. He spends his time in squad cars, unmarked cars and on his motorcycle making sure offenders stay in compliance.

Since October, when reserve officers took over sex offender compliance, Officer Johnson has filed 17 cases and sent at least six offenders back to jail for not following registration laws. Many of those offenders were convicted of molesting children, he said. The amount of time they will serve will vary depending on the charge and other factors.

McKinney Capt. Rex Redden praised the duo's enthusiasm. He said their success means sex offenders must follow the letter of the law.

"We realized that it was kind of idle threats over them staying in compliance" before Ms. Lutz and Officer Johnson teamed up, said Capt. Redden. "We did checks every six months and often they'd moved several times."

For Ms. Lutz, 34, the drive is personal.

"I live in McKinney and have three kids. I take it to heart," she said. "I want to make sure someone's looking out for them."

Three of McKinney's sex offenders check in four times a year and the remaining ones must notify authorities whenever they move or make other changes. A year ago, the city had 40 offenders. Now at 53, they number one in every 1,618 residents.

The Johnson/Lutz team has inspired others in the department to help by offering equipment, time and tips.

If an officer stops a Waco sex offender in the city limits, dispatchers message Ms. Lutz to make sure the man hasn't moved to McKinney. And patrol officers routinely keep an eye on residences at which police suspect unregistered sex offenders may hide out.

The team's tactics have become well-known among the city's sex offenders. The tight reins caused at least one man to leave the city, they said.

The man called Ms. Lutz to ask why Officer Johnson was looking for him. He had left McKinney and re-registered in a Tarrant County city. "You can even check," he told her.

The pair's arrests include Michael Patrick Baham, 41, convicted of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 1 and 7. He was registered in West Tawakoni, but is accused of living unregistered in a McKinney motel.

Officers first ran across him last summer while responding to a domestic disturbance call. After a second run-in at the motel in December, the two worked to find evidence that Mr. Baham was living there.

Officer Johnson arrested Mr. Baham in what he calls the "shortest stakeout in history." The wait began at 4 a.m., and Officer Johnson arrested him 15 minutes later.

Mr. Baham now sits in the Collin County jail, held on $15,000 bail, charged with failure to comply with registration laws.

Another arrest

Another man, Cleothis Robertson, 24, was registered in Colorado where he was convicted of third-degree sexual assault. Instead, Officer Johnson found him living at a McKinney apartment complex Wednesday.

The FBI had called McKinney police and asked them to pick him up on a charge related to selling $10,000 worth of electronics on eBay and failing to deliver the goods. But Officer Johnson and Ms. Lutz also discovered he was an unregistered sex offender.

Mr. Robertson ended up with an additional charge of failure to comply with the sex offender registration law. He posted $2,500 bond Thursday.

McKinney police also have five active warrants for sex offenders who failed to comply.

One is James Matthew Moore, 19, who filed an incorrect address. He was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl. Kyle Wayne Kindle, 21, who sexually assaulted two 13-year-old girls, has not registered properly.

Officer Johnson said those who have so far escaped detection will soon be caught. They're "around somewhere," he said.



Reposted without permission, but under the terms of fair use.
Original story appeared in the Dallas Morning News, 09 February 2004, on page 5B.

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Posted: 09 February 2004 last edited: 10 February 2004