In-depth: Why aren’t all sex offenders listed on Megan’s Law?

ALAMEDA COUNTY (KRON) — Thousands of Californians convicted of sex crimes are excluded from the website that allows the public to see where certain sex offenders live.

Sex offenders have been required to register for life with California law enforcement since the 1940’s.

Since then, that registry has swelled to more than 10,000 people.

While the majority can be found on the publicly accessible Megan’s Law website, there are thousands that are hidden and known only to law enforcement.

One of the roughly 25% of sex offenders in California who’s crimes have not been deemed serious enough to warrant that kind of exposure.

MAP: MEGAN’S LAW VIOLATORS IN YOUR AREA

As of March, the California Department of Justice shows that in Alameda County alone there was a total of nearly 2,500 registered sex offenders living there.

But when we checked the Megan’s Law website, we found just 1,700 of those were listed online.

KRON4 requested data from the state for all nine Bay Area counties and compared those numbers to the Megan’s Law website.

Check the map below to find out how many sex offenders actually live in your county:

Crimes that aren’t tracked by Megan’s Law include:

  • Sexual battery
  • Misdemeanor child molestation, where the victim is a close relative of the offender
  • Felony child pornography, if the victim is at least 16 years old
  • Indecent exposure
  • Human trafficking

KRON4’s Maureen Kelly went on patrol with two undercover sheriff’s deputies on the Alameda County SAFE Task Force.

Kelly rode in an unmarked vehicle with the deputies as they headed to check up on a sex offender who was released from prison in 2007 and is not on the Megan’s Law website.

“His offense was sexual battery,” said a deputy. “I don’t know what he did, that’s what he pled guilty to.”

“They are only visible to law enforcement,” a deputy explained. “The problem with that system, it does not take into consideration their risk profile. It’s unfortunate because there are high-risk offenders out there who really should be visible to the community and aren’t.”

The man who’s being checked on today was never tested to determine his risk level.

According to these deputies, he has a solid history of annually updating his registration…until this year, which is what brings them to this Oakland house.

“I bet that’s him right there, it looks like him,” said a deputy as they pulled up to the house.

Instead, it turns out to be the sex offender’s brother.

The deputies talk with the brother and explain that they are checking because the sex offender failed to register.

“We are just trying to check on him,” a deputy tells the brother. “Part of what we do is make sure he lives where he says he lives.”

The brother tells them that the man lives in a camper on the property.

The deputies check the camper and the basement, just in case, and get more information from the brother.

“They have a plausible story. Grandmother is 105 years old, both older brothers are here trying to take care of grandma,” said a deputy. “It’s possible this guy, this guy has a pretty solid history of registration so we may deal with this with just a warning and get him back down town to register.”

ARE HIGH-RISK SEX OFFENDERS REALLY WHERE THEY SAY THEY ARE?

“I’m going to make sure that he gets the message today when I see him when he gets in from work,” the brother tells Kelly. “Because I don’t need this, my grandmother don’t need this. It’s embarrassing when the neighbors come up see the sheriff come up on the door.”

He ended up getting the sex offender on the phone, who says he just forgot.

“We are not all about just throwing people in jail every single chance we get,” said a deputy. “The most important thing is to keep them from re-offending.”

The deputies then headed to Hayward in a search for another sex offender, Richard Coulouris.

Coulouris is on the sex registry list because he was convicted of sexual battery, but his criminal record shows that he was originally charged with multiple counts including rape and sodomy.

“What I would like to see, people who do pose a risk should be placed on Megan’s List based on what it was that they did, or what it was that there were charged with, not what it was that they pled to,” said a deputy. “Maybe that’s pie in the sky, maybe that’s idealistic but really that’s the best way, in my opinion, we would be able to keep track of people.”

Coulouris is registered at a church that offers services for the homeless. Because he’s a transient, he’s required to renew his registration every 30 days but he stopped a year ago. He also has an outstanding arrest warrant for auto theft.

“He’s wanted for a couple things, he’s a sex offender who hasn’t registered,” a deputy tells Ralph Morales, who works at the New Bridges Outreach Center.

“Ah geez we got kids for food here,” Morales said to the deputy.

“This is their job and it’s helping us,” Morales tells Kelly. “If you were here in another hour, we’d probably have 50 families for food and at least half bring at least one child with them. We don’t need that.”

They direct the deputies to the park across the street, where Coulouris is known to hang out.

“Obviously we don’t want sex offenders hanging out in parks,” said a deputy.

WHAT HAPPENS TO SEX OFFENDERS IN VIOLATION OF MEGAN’S LAW

While they’re looking, a package arrives at the church for Coulouris. Turns out that package must have been important because several hours later the deputies get a call that Coulouris returned for that package.

“See bam, it’s not what you know it’s who you know,” said a deputy.

The staff at the church was able to stall the suspect until Hayward PD arrived to make the arrest.

“Another reason why today was successful, it’s successful when we go out and look for these guys and we let people know where are at here looking for them,” a deputy explains. And to let them know that we are out here looking for them so hopefully, it keeps them in line.”

Coulouris has been charged with auto theft and failing to register as a sex offender. But that’s not enough to put him on the Megan’s Law website when he’s released from custody.

His history as a sex offender will stay hidden from the general public.

A KRON4 investigation revealed that in Alameda County, nearly 200 of the over 1,700 posted on Megan’s Law during the month of April were in violation.

We did the same analysis for all of the Bay Area counties. Check the map below to find out how many violators are in your town:

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