- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

Sex offenders in Virginia will be monitored more closely via Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and an upgraded registry, state officials announced yesterday.

The changes that are to take effect July 1 will broaden the number of offenders eligible to be listed in the statewide online registry. The names and photos of nonviolent sex offenders will be accessible, expanding the registry to about 13,000 names.

Two similar bills making their way through the General Assembly would authorize administrative personnel and state troopers to help monitor sex offenders and enforce state law, Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell said in an interview yesterday.

Technological upgrades and the hiring of about 50 troopers and six administrative workers to maintain the registry would cost about $10.5 million, said Mr. McDonnell, a Republican.

The revamped registry Web site, (sex-offender.vsp.virginia.gov), is maintained by the Virginia State Police and allows users to locate the residences of offenders on a map. Its search engine can sort by city, county, ZIP code and name.

The list of offenses that require a criminal’s name to be in the registry will be expanded to include, for example, those convicted of possessing child pornography on the first offense.

“There’s dramatic new resources going into monitoring these offenders, so we know exactly where they are,” Mr. McDonnell said. “And we think it’s going to work more accurately with these new resources employed.”

The changes come after Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in April signed a dozen bills aimed at cracking down on sexual predators.

GPS technology will be used to track sex offenders convicted of major crimes from three years to life after they are released from prison. Offenders who fail to register promptly will have to wear a tracking bracelet.

Mr. McDonnell said GPS technology is ready to be used in law enforcement. “It has been used in your golf cart and your car for about 10 years for commercial purposes,” he said.

Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said the “opportunity to track these people in their neighborhoods” is invaluable.

“We have more people paying attention, making sure that people who have to register are registering accurately and that they aren’t in places where they shouldn’t be,” Col. Flaherty said.

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