One lawmaker wants to track sex offenders using a GPS - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

One lawmaker wants to track sex offenders using a GPS

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

State Senator Will Longwitz wants to reform how sex offenders register and notify nearby residents where they live.

Longwitz explained, "I believe that using technology and reducing the number of man hours that it takes to go find these people in the first place, we're looking at a much more cost efficient system than we currently have now."

The plan calls for convicted sex offenders to be graded on their dangerousness to society. The most serious would wear a GPS monitoring device. Longwitz says 16 states already have similar legislation in place.

"If you leave your restricted area, it could notify police. If you approach a school, it could set off an alarm. If you approach your former victim's family's neighborhood, it could set off an alarm," explained Longwitz.

Similar laws in other states have been challenged in court.

Longwitz says the convicted sex offender would even help pay for the cost of the GPS device.

However, if you look at the sex offender registry website in Jackson, some offenders have a registered address at a shelter or they're listed as homeless. Many convicts have a hard time getting a job after being released from jail.

"Every serious offense comes with a penalty with restitution requirements. There's no reason we shouldn't put as much of this as possible on the offender. There may be some start up cost for equipment," said Longwitz.

The senator says a similar device could have possibly saved Lenora Edhegard, the Rankin County woman brutally killed in October.  

Investigators say Cortrell Rose, a convicted sex offender, has admitted to killing Edhegard. Prosecutors also believe Rose used a fake address in Hinds County but was actually living in Rankin County.

"The last thing that we want to do is put stricter monitoring in place and then have it eroded because of compliance and cost issues," said Longwitz. 

A sex offender must register every 90 days and have a picture taken. That information is kept in a database.

If the offender fails to do so, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety is responsible for notifying the sheriff in the county where the sex offender's last known address was given.

"You maybe surprised to find a convicted sex offender is living in close proximity to your home, and as a parent that would be useful information just to be aware and to protect your kids," said Mississippi Department of Public Safety Public Affairs Director Warren Strain.

You log onto the state's sex offender registry website, http://state.sor.dps.ms.gov/ and search for sex offenders by zip code, county, or last name.

Law enforcement also need your help, if you believe a sex offender is illegally living in your neighborhood.

"We can't be everywhere all at one time and individuals who are living in these particular areas can know their surroundings, and if something doesn't look right let us know," explained Strain.

Longwitz's legislation, which he plans to introduce in January, would also require sexual offenders to send written notifications to residents, within a certain radius, once they move.

As of Monday, there were 7,380 sex offenders in Mississippi. 181 of those were non-compliant. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety says those numbers change daily.

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