274 sex offenders not on list
By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mike Gordon
Nine convicted sex offenders were indicted last week and several hundred others face prosecution as part of a new crackdown by the state against people who have not complied with Hawai'i's registration requirements.
"This is going to be a tough, new push," Attorney General Mark Bennett said yesterday at a news conference.
Two of the nine men were arrested Tuesday after being indicted by an O'ahu grand jury on Dec. 7. If convicted, they could go to prison for up to five years. Bail for each offender was set at $10,000.
Bennett's office also mailed letters yesterday to the last-known addresses of 274 sex offenders — or about 13 percent of the state's 2,100 documented sex offenders — who have never registered, he said. They are being told they have until Jan. 13, 2006, to register or face prosecution.
An additional 344 offenders — or 16 percent of the registry — who have no verifiable address also have been listed on the state sex offender Web site for being in noncompliance. Bennett said he hopes the public will help law enforcement officials locate them and urged people with information to contact the state.
"We want to send a message to Hawai'i's sex offenders," he said. "If you don't comply with registration laws, you are going to be prosecuted. You are likely to be convicted. And you face the very strong likelihood of going to jail."
The sex offender registry is maintained by the Hawai'i Criminal Justice Data Center.
Bennett promised limited amnesty to the 274 sex offenders who have never registered.
"If you come into compliance with the registration law within a month and stay in compliance you won't be prosecuted. We are giving these individuals one chance to come into compliance."
But Bennett also promised leniency to the 344 offenders that law enforcement officials cannot locate, as long as the offenders step forward. If they see their name on the list, they need to call the attorney general, he said.
"I can tell you that as a practical matter, if somebody comes in before they are indicted next month and voluntarily comes into compliance, the odds that that person is going to be prosecuted are very, very small," he said. "We want people to comply."
The list of noncompliant offenders will include photographs, if available, as well as other identifying information.
Bennett said the best way to protect the public is to get sex offenders registered and onto the state's public Web site. When they are in line with the law, "they think twice" before breaking it again, he said.
"We have seen in the last couple of years, instances where noncompliant sex offenders have committed new offenses," he said. "We know that sex offenders have a high recidivism rate."
Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said his office will argue for jail time for any sex offender convicted of not registering.
"And we expect you will go to jail," Carlisle said. "It is that simple."
The public's help will be the key to any successful push for sex offender registration, said Honolulu police Maj. Debbie Tandal, who heads the department's records and identification section.
"With the public's help, it will be a lot easier," she said. "But it is hard to track down 200-something people who don't have a valid address in our system."
Of Hawai'i's registered sex offenders, 1,468 are listed on the public Web site, which went up in May. The Web site expanded the public's access to information about offenders, including photographs, home and work addresses, convictions and even the kinds of vehicles they drive.
It has received more than 4 million hits since it went up. Bennett said the Web site is effective and people stop him on the street and tell him they're using it.
"The more information we have about where these individuals live and work, the more we are able to protect Hawai'i's parents and children and the more likely it is that Hawai'i's parents and children can protect themselves," he said.
Reach Mike Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.