Bill could help Jamestown PD hire staff with registering sex offenders
The House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on HB 1415 on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
BISMARCK — A House bill could help the Jamestown Police Department hire additional law enforcement staff to assist with registering and investigating sex offenders.
If passed by the state Legislature, House Bill 1415 would appropriate $480,000 to the attorney general for the purpose of awarding grants to a local police department located in southeastern North Dakota with a population of between 14,000 and 17,000 residents that has recently experienced a significant increase in the number of registered sex offenders living in that community. HB 1415 is a one-time funding item that would be used to hire more law enforcement staff beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2025. Eligible expenditures under the program include costs related to salaries and overtime, training and purchasing equipment for existing and new staff.
The bill is sponsored by Reps. Dwight Kiefert, R-Valley City; Mitch Ostlie, R-Jamestown; Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown; Karen Anderson, R-Grafton; Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck; and Karen Rohr, R-Mandan; and Sens. Cole Conley and Terry Wanzek, both R-Jamestown.
The House Judiciary Committee gave HB 1415 a do-pass recommendation and the bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee, which will hold a hearing on it on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
The Jamestown Police Department has between 950 and 1,050 sex offender registrations per year, said Scott Edinger, chief of police, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 30. He said each registration takes 15 to 45 minutes.
The city of Jamestown has 31 high-risk registered sex offenders including five more in a transition home from the sex offender unit at the North Dakota State Hospital, said Capt. LeRoy Gross with the Jamestown Police Department, at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. For comparison, he said Fargo has 33 and Bismarck has about 45, but Jamestown has more per capita.
He said Jamestown has about 90 total registered sex offenders.
He said every time sex offenders are required to register changes including their address, jobs, phone number, vehicles, an email address, internet service provider, social media accounts, hair color or a new tattoo, it takes resources. He said then the department has to do compliance checks to follow up on the sex offenders.
“We are very overwhelmed,” he said.
For example, if a sex offender registers as homeless, the Police Department has to send an officer out to make sure the individual is homeless. He said the department has to make sure the individual is not living somewhere that is about 500 feet from a school or in a place where a landlord doesn’t allow sex offenders.
Gross said many of the high-risk sex offenders in Jamestown did not originate from the community. He said the sex offenders stay in Jamestown because they were living with other offenders either in prison or at the sex offender unit at the North Dakota State Hospital. He said they are transitioned into the community.
He said he would like to see the Jamestown Police Department hire one officer to help with sex offender registrations and compliance checks.
“I would take one of my crew detectives right now and assign him to this and then we would get another investigator to pick up some of these other cases because they are the most trained,” he said. “I would like to have him have his own car. He can set up a schedule for registrations.”
Gross said it would cost about $200,000 for one person with a vehicle and equipment to handle the caseload in Jamestown. He said the $200,000 would include salary, benefits, training and recertification. He said equipment is about $30,000 and licensing for the equipment is about $6,000 per year.