How can you be certain registered sex offenders living in our communities are adhering to the rules set by the court? You assemble a special task force of law enforcement to make unannounced visits to the homes of these convicted criminals.
That's what happened in Tipton County and I was invited to see all the action.
You would think that the sex offenders would be on their best behavior after deputies did a compliance sweep in 2010. They arrested about twenty sex offenders back then for violating the conditions of their parole.
This time the task force decided to see if the criminals learned their lesson. Some did and a surprising number of them did not.
"Keeping them honest - protecting our children is one of the most important things we do as a society," says Chief Donna Turner, Tipton County Sheriff's Department.
The open spaces of Tipton County don't guarantee children are safe from convicted sex offenders. They blend into the community but law enforcement always keeps an eye on them. Sometimes police and parole officers make an unannounced house call. Chief Turner says, "Some of our sex offenders are on lifetime supervision, so that means for the rest of their life, we will be paying them a visit."
Recently FOX13 was given unlimited access to Tipton County Sheriff's Office second sex offender compliance check in three years. The US Marshals, parole officers, even the Memphis police Internet investigator all summoned to Covington.
They used court records to verify where the offenders are supposed to live and if they are adhering to the restrictions of their release. Parolees can't have weapons, drugs, child porn; in some cases no toys or games that could be used as bait to lure youngsters. "I think they have learned in the last few years, maybe last few years, they know that if they are not home, we are going to show up.
Not all the sex offenders play by the rules. Twenty-one were arrested during the four day sweep - three we witnessed for not having the sex offender stamp on their drivers licenses. Detective Brandon Matlock from the Tipton County Sheriff's Department says, "It just helps us know who we are dealing with up front. So if we catch him on a school parking lot, he doesn't have his '88' restriction. Unless we know him personally we wouldn't know he is a registered sex offender."
Others broke camp in a big way. Police confiscated from their homes marijuana, drug paraphernalia, porn videos, pistols, a shotgun, an AR15 rifle and ammunition.
"You come to this building; you check in with us, can come in here and tell us one thing and then go do something else. That's what these operations are. They are unannounced so they don't know we are coming," says Chief Turner
If caught with either contraband or violating probation they can be sent back to jail. Trust is not part of the equation here, and the task force is keeping them honest. Because, as Chief Turner says, "Protecting our children is one of the most important things that we do as a society."