Finding the residence and place of employment for 38 residents within the 48430 Fenton zip code is just a click away. No, it’s not because they’ve listed too much information on their Facebook page, it’s because they’re listed with the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry. And by law, sex offenders within the state of Michigan must publically list their home and work address, as well as their offense for their registry.
Adding the 41 sex offenders who reside in the 48442 Holly zip code and the 19 from the 48451 Linden zip code, the tri-county area is home to 98 sex offenders, down from 102 offenders in 2009. Overall, Michigan has 40,692 people registered on the state’s sex offender list, ranking as the fifth highest state with registered sex offenders according to sexoffendermap.org.
Members of the registry are not allowed anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school or playground and in some cases, are barred from certain jobs. While the list does keep neighborhoods informed of who is moving in next door, there are some who view the list as unfair to those who commit lesser crimes.
“The general public should know the registry is there to protect them and there are definitely people who belong on it,” said Scott Grabel, a Lansing based criminal defense lawyer who represents sex offenders across the state. “But being on the list doesn’t really tell you what the scenario is. You get a snippet but no degree of specificity.”
Some of those scenarios include teenagers who may be 18-year-old high school seniors dating 15-year-old freshmen, someone caught urinating in public or grabbing someone while intoxicated.
Michigan began indentifying offenders in three different tiers in July 2011. Tier 1 offenders remain on the list for 15 years and include offenses of child porn and inappropriate touching of victims. Tier 2 offenders remain on the list for 25 years; offenses include producing child porn, soliciting prostitution and gross indecency. Those listed at Tier 3 offense carry a lifetime sentencing to the registry and involve inappropriate touching of victims younger than 13 and instances of sexual assault.
In Grabel’s experience, some people end up registering with the state police as part of a bargain, whether they deserve to be part of the registry or not.
“People get very emotional when it comes to sex crimes, which I can appreciate,” Grabel said. “A lot of times you get prosecutors who are overzealous and go for the maximum penalties. Some people get on the list and they’re not guilty of anything.”
Fenton Police Chief Rick Aro said a detective with the department investigates offenders within the city twice a year to make sure they’re living where they registered and that they’re not breaking any laws. Overall, Aro said the number of sex offenders has been steady and those within the city of Fenton have been mostly compliant with the laws.
So, what should you do if you find that your new neighbor is a part of the sex offender’s registry? Grabel said it’s socially acceptable to ask why someone is part of the registry and get the reason straight from the source. Speaking with the person directly will give you a clearer understanding of their offence and judge of character.
“You should certainly be cautious of anyone on the list. But if you knew some of the underlying circumstances, you would probably be upset that some people have to be on the list,” Grabel said.