There are nearly 2,000 registered sex offenders in North Dakota, but there are only 156 people on the state’s other registry for offenders against children.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the large disparity is because there are fewer crimes committed against children, but also because the registry for child offenders only includes felony convictions, while the sex offender registry lists misdemeanor offenses.
The registries used to be combined into one list, Grand Forks Police Cpl. Brian Robbins said, but they separated two or three years ago.
There were about 768,000 searches last year in the sex offender registry, but only about 16,000 searches within the child offender log, Stenehjem said. Both registries are accessible through the Attorney General’s website.
Robbins said people may not know the child offender log exists because sex crimes are more widely publicized than child abuse crimes.
The registries were split apart to provide better clarification but still hold offenders accountable, Stenehjem said.
“For those offenders that are on the registry for an offense against children and not a sexual offense, they probably like it better, too, because they’re not on the same list as the sexual offenders, and they’re broken out from that list,” Robbins said.
Those who are included on the child offender list have been convicted of homicide, assault, aggravated assault, terrorizing, stalking, kidnapping, felonious restraint, removal of child from a state in violation of custody decree, prostitution or criminal child abuse.
Sex offenders and child offenders have nearly identical registration requirements, both report to police when they move or get a new job, and both are subject to random checks at their homes.
Sex offenders are assessed as low, moderate or high risk to reoffend based on a number of factors, including their age and the severity of their crimes. The assessment determines how long they remain on the registry. Police send out neighborhood notifications when high-risk offenders move.
Child offenders are on the list for 15 years, and life if they reoffend. They are not risk assessed. Seven people were on the list are lifetime offenders as of Thursday. Thirty-seven offenders were incarcerated, three in Grand Forks County, as of the same day.
Stenehjem said North Dakota is one of only a handful of states that have a publicly accessible child offender registry. After the 1994 Wetterling Act, all states were required to maintain registries for sex offenders. Some states have other registries for specific crimes, including drug offender and animal abuse registries.
Stenejham said he thinks the registry is a valuable tool for public safety and hopes it grows in awareness.
“I think that crimes against children, especially the ones that we’re talking about here, the felony ones are serious enough to warrant public awareness,” he said.