CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Most registered sex offenders in West Virginia are complying with state laws, if a recent sweep across Boone, Lincoln and Logan counties is any indication, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said on Friday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Operation Coal Dust, which sent State Police to randomly check on 209 convicted sex offenders in the three southern counties, found 10 who weren't following the rules of the registration system, according to Goodwin. Three arrests were made and more are expected.
"That is a fairly remarkable level of compliance," Goodwin said in a telephone interview from Chapmanville, where he held a news conference earlier Friday. "It really shows the hard work of the West Virginia State Police on a day-in and day-out basis -- they are the ones charged with registering sex offenders and ensuring compliance."
Nationally, about 10 percent of sex offenders are found not in compliance, according to John Foster, U.S. marshal for the Southern District of West Virginia. "This is about 5 percent, which is a really good sign," he said about the recent sweep.
West Virginia has about 3,300 registered sex offenders, and that number is growing by about 400 a year, according to Goodwin.
U.S. marshals work together with State Police because many offenders "state shop," according to Foster.
"They'll call the State Police headquarters and ask questions about how often the rules are enforced," he said. That's what makes the surprise visits work, "they're starting to realize we're serious."
Goodwin attributes the high level of compliance to the coordination among agencies.
"It's a matter of compliance rather than having more laws on the books. This is a remarkable level of compliance, and that's due to the hard work of the West Virginia State Police with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service," he said.
Sex offenders are required to report any changes in their personal information -- where they live, the vehicle they drive, among other things.
"In most cases, [troopers] physically go to their house where they've reported they live on a regular basis. It's a large part of this success and we take it very seriously," said State Police Capt. Tony Cummings. "The safety of the public, especially children, is very important to us."
In December, a similar law enforcement sweep called Operation River Cities was held in Cabell, Mingo and Wayne counties. As a result of the 299 compliance checks conducted as part of Operation River Cities, 18 arrests were made by law enforcement, according to a news release from Goodwin's office.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.