Community: Sex offender sites often mislead

Richard Dwayne Wingster,

Wingster admitted to the assault, but the incident happened when he was 16. That means if he’s convicted of third-degree criminal sexual misconduct, you will never see his picture on a sex offender registry in Georgia because he was a juvenile.

There were 107 reports of sexual crimes from Jan. 1 to March 31 in Savannah, according to the Savannah Chatham Police Department. Those offenses include rape, sodomy, child molestation, indecent exposure and others. A string of recent sexual assaults where attackers posed as cable repair workers have awakened women and parents in some local neighborhoods to the problem.

In all, over 200 registered sex offenders are living in Savannah. You can go to the registry at

According to the Department of Justice, sexual crimes against children are on the rise and are usually committed by someone who knows the victim. The National Institute of Mental Health found that most child molesters molest a child or children more than 100 times before a report is made to police.

Even violent offenders are released on plea bargains, for lack of evidence, or because of lenient laws and loopholes. The NMH and DOJ both state that these type of offenders have the highest recidivism rates of all criminals.

Any agent from any government group or child advocacy group will tell you that there is no cure for pedophilia and that the only thing the public can do is keep aware of who they might be. Because of this, states started maintaining a registry of violent sexual offenders after seven-year-old Megan Kanka of New Jersey was raped and murdered by a repeat sex offender living right next door. Eight-year-old Jessica Lunsford of Florida was raped, murdered and buried alive by a neighbor in Florida last year. He was a convicted sex offender.

But a juvenile in Georgia, unless charged as an adult, is not required to register on the sex offender registry at all. Even if the juvenile has served time in a facility, they will not appear online to employers - even someone looking for a babysitter.

"While the registry is a valuable resource, I remind people that just because someone is not on the registry, do not mean they are not a sexual predator," said Lt. Mike. Wilkins of the Savannah-Chatham Police Department.

Offenders who are considered to have a mental defect that makes them susceptible to committing sexual crimes are required to stay on the registry for life. But many other offenders - ones who do not seem violent enough, ones that are young - are not anywhere on the registry and will not be unless the law is changed.

A lot of offenders only stay on the registry for the period of their probation - then they’re gone. You will never find their name in the registry.

If a person was released from prison, placed on probation or supervised released probation ten years ago, then he or she is not required to register as a sex offender. If a person was sentenced under the first offender act between 1996 and 2004, he or she is also not required to register.

In 2004, the law was changed and sex offenders sentenced under the first offender act, whose victims are 12 years of age or younger are now required to register during their period of probation.

As of last year, all offenders sentenced under the first offender act will be required to register during their period of probation. However, once their period of probation is successfully completed, they’re removed from the registry.

"The registry is a valuable resource for adults and parents and other child caretakers that want information on where convicted sex offenders live," said Wilkins. "It also includes photographs and descriptive information on what crime they were charged with. This information can be used to protect children and adults."

Though there’s not a particular demographic that is targeted for sexual offenses, children are susceptible to crimes committed by people they know, according to the GBI. Usually a child offender is related to a family member or is a family friend or neighbor.

"For rape, the typical victim is most often a teenaged female," said Wilkins. "The victim knows her attacker in most cases."

But young children and even infants are victims of the most heinous sex crimes. According to an FBI study at

According to the FBI’s report, infants were victims of forcible sodomy, aggravated fondling and assault with an object. Children of other ages were victims of different sexual crimes. But, the number of sexually related crimes against infants was high enough for the FBI to chart the appalling numbers.

Unfortunately, many parents and residents do not look at the sex offender registry. One resident asked me why I was even writing about a sex offenders.

"Why write about that?" he asked. "Write about something citizens are concerned and angry about."

One mother and new resident said she only looked at the registry once, and that was because a friend told her to. When asked if she would recognize an offender in her area, she said she would not.

Residents can do something about this crime. Keep on top of offenders moving into your neighborhoods.

Make sure that the people who come onto your children’s school grounds are not offenders. Make sure your children and friends know who lives around them.

"Above all, someone does not need to be listed on the registry to be a sexual predator," said Wilkins.

"Don’t rely on this as a sole factor in determining if someone is safe or not. Common sense should be your guide. If you instinctively feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation."

17, a Savannah resident, was arrested for allegedly impregnating his severely disabled teenage cousin in Hardeeville, S.C. His cousin is blind, has cerebral palsy, and according to police reports, has the mental capacity of an eight-year-old. gbisor/ disclaim.html and look up offenders by zip code, city or county. Many offenders are not required to be listed on the registry, according to Georgia infant_victims.html, sex crimes against infants are on the rise. w


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