Sex offenders rise with oil boom
DICKINSON, N.D. -- As southwestern North Dakota’s population rises, so does the number of sex offenders registered.
And the transient nature of many of North Dakota’s newest residents, who often switch jobs or residences, means more work to keep up with sex offenders’ status.
Dickinson police Sgt. Kylan Klauzer, who oversees sex offender registration compliance at the department, said both initial offender registrations and updates have increased in the past two years.
“With the increased number, there’s also an overall number of registration updates, an increase in registration updates because of the type of industry that’s here with these guys and their … job sites constantly moving,” he said.
Currently 77 sex offenders are registered in Stark County, compared to just nine at this time in 2012.
And that growth is set to continue, according to numbers from the Dickinson Police Department, which logged 38 new registrations in 2012, 35 in 2013 and 26 so far this year.
The growing offender registry is keeping police busy.
Klauzer said the department is close to doing what many others do: having a single detective or group of detectives who are strictly dedicated to following sex offenders who live in Dickinson.
New residents from out of state would keep them busy.
The state attorney general’s sex offender Web page specifies that out-of-state workers who are in North Dakota for 10 or more consecutive days, or 30-plus cumulative days in a calendar year, must register.
Offenders made 185 total contacts — such as address updates — with Dickinson police in 2012, 311 in 2013 and 208 so far this year.
“Some people’s files are huge because they get a new job every two weeks,” said Rebecca Hoff, records supervisor with the Dickinson police.
The housing shortage means the men don’t always stay in the same place, and some are registered to man camps, trailer courts or even hotel rooms.
“The living situation obviously is hard, and so these guys are constantly changing their residence and finding different places to live,” Klauzer said.
The varied living situations are a cause for concern for Tom Lewan, executive director of Sex Offender Activity Patrol. S.O.A.P., based in Lansing, Iowa, offers confidential surveillance footage to law enforcement officials to survey sex offenders living in communities.
“The problem is … when you get into these man camps that you don’t know who’s moving in or out,” he said. Or, when men share apartments, only one may be registered on the lease.
“They’ll know the guy who’s renting the place but you don’t know who else is leaving with them,” he said.
Mostly out-of-state convictions
The effect of the boom shows not only in the numbers of offenders registered, but also in where their convictions are from — in most cases, it’s not North Dakota.
Thirteen of the 16 offenders registered in Dunn County have convictions from other states.
In Stark County, just over half of the 76 registered offenders have convictions from elsewhere.
Lewan says the lack of workers means some employers might let their guard down.
“People are getting hired without, let’s say, proper documentation,” he said. “A lot of times they don’t have time to do background checks just because it’s a warm body and they need somebody, so they just hire them on the spot.”
And he pointed out that the numbers the state has don’t include offenders who don’t register while in North Dakota.
Violations of the state sex offender registration law, which carry a mandatory 90 days in jail with a conviction, have risen in tandem with registrations, Klauzer said.
“You don’t know how many people are not registering that are passing through,” Lewan said.