INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) recently shared that by reallocating resources in the department, it has been able to focus on tackling the issue of non-compliant sex offenders in the community.
In an interview days ago with CBS4, Sheriff Kerry Forestal said, “Another sweep will be coming and as we mentioned before we don’t tell you when, but for the sex offenders, we will be coming for you again, so follow the rules or move out.”
On Friday, Forestal and deputies with the MCSO followed through on that promise, conducting an unannounced sweep in a neighborhood on the city’s near east side, just a short distance from Brookside Park, making sure offenders were in compliance with their court orders.
CBS4 was invited to follow along with deputies as their sweep focused on several houses in particular, while other deputies patrolled the area near the park and aquatic center to search for any known sex offenders who may be going near children who are on summer break.
“As you were able to participate in this morning, we were checking a conglomeration of sex offenders in a neighborhood,” said Forestal. “Somebody thought it was a good idea to put 13 sex offenders in three houses in the middle of a neighborhood.”
Forestal has been vocal in regard to his concerns over the number of sex offenders living in Marion County that were convicted elsewhere. He said the problem is only getting worse.
“45% of the people that are registered sex offenders are from other counties and other states,” said Forestal. “We’ll be responsible for the ones who were sentenced out of Marion County and we’ll check them, but other people need to stay in the counties they were sentenced to.”
In 2018, the MCSO said 39% of registered sex offenders in Marion County were convicted elsewhere. That number rose to 42% by January of 2021, and in just six months, it moved to 45% by June.
MCSO told CBS4 it is seeing more and more people coming to the county and failing to register. That’s why on Friday deputies were checking to make sure registered sex offenders were living at the address associated with their sex offender registration.
In choosing their location for Friday’s sweep, Forestal said they looked at hot spots where sex offenders have registered their address. According to the MCSO, 193 sex offenders, or more than 10% of Marion County’s 1,815 sex offenders, live at just 18 addresses.
The deputies focused on three homes on N. Olney Street. In one house, there are seven registered sex offenders who live there. There are four registered sex offenders in the second home, and two in the other, for a total of 13.
On all but one registered sex offender, the MCSO was simply conducting a compliance check, with no evidence they were in violation of any rules prior to the sweep. There is, however, an active warrant out for a man listed as living in a home on the 1200 block of N. Olney St.
MCSO deputies were looking for 44-year-old Robert Collins Jr., a sexually violent predator, wanted on two counts of Failure to Register, a level 5 felony.
Collins Jr. was convicted in 2016 in Hancock County for Child Molestation and Sexual Battery involving an 11-year-old victim. As part of his sentence, he was ordered to serve one year in the Indiana Department of Correction, with three years suspended.
According to his sex offender registry details, Collins Jr. has had an active warrant for his arrest since December of 2018.
Results of Operation Constant Vigilance
Of the 13 registered sex offenders deputies were doing compliance checks on, Forestal said six people were where the registry says they should be. Collins Jr. was not one of them.
At one location, the homeowner said the only two registered sex offenders who were living there moved out some time ago, but according to authorities, they never updated that information on their registration.
“There’s two people we will probably have to obtain some warrants on,” said Forestal.
He shared that these unannounced sweeps send the message to registered sex offenders that MCSO is watching, and they will be caught if they are doing something wrong.
“So, we do make them accountable and then we do surprise inspections. We don’t tell them when we’re coming. That kind of defeats the purpose,” Forestal said.
Forestal said the MCSO takes compliance checks very seriously and even does them more often than required.
“The requirement is to check serious violent predators every 90 days. We checked them every 30 days,” he said. The remaining group of registered sex offenders, Forestal said, is required to be checked on once a year, but MCSO does that twice a year.
Neighbor Demetri Gladney, who lives nearby, said he wasn’t sure what was going on as deputies quickly pulled up in the neighborhood, but once he found out, he said, “I was actually kind of relieved to see it.”
Gladney said, “I didn’t know how many lived on this street, but I knew there was an entire house full of them.”
He said he keeps an eye out for his neighbors, especially the kids on his street.
“Being on this block and there are children that you know, want to easily go out and play and so forth and for them to not be able to go out and play and have to worry about something like that in this neighborhood, I feel like that’s not okay.”
As he spoke from Brookside Park following the operation, Forestal pointed towards N. Olney Rd. and said, “To walk down there, at the end of the day, it’s not safe and if I was somebody in the neighborhood, I’d be upset about that.”
He encourages parents to watch out for their children in-person and online and said a good resource for tips regarding online safety is provided by the Department of Justice.
On top of the sweeps, MCSO said it will also continue its increased use of social media, where the department does its Monday Morning Roundup, featuring a wanted registered sex offender for failure to comply, in hopes it will encourage people to be vigilant, and that person to turn themselves in.
That’s what happened this week. Forestal said a man wanted for two counts of failure to register, who was originally convicted Child Molestation, turned himself in on Thursday.
Forestal hopes Collins Jr. does the same after Friday’s compliance sweep.