I-Team Exclusive: Hiding In Plain Sight
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By Charlotte Huffman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Almost 34,000 convicted sex offenders are living across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
The law requires them to register their address.
But if you think an online registry is your key to knowing whether they live next door, think again.
In an I-Team Exclusive CBS 3 is on your side.
Investigative reporter Charlotte Huffman goes undercover to expose the loophole that allows some offenders to stay off the radar.
Convicted sex offenders are required to register with authorities so that you know their names, know what they look like and know where they live.
It’s information that is found in state police registries on the internet.
But 100 offenders in Delaware say they’re homeless.
And believe it or not, they’re allowed to register that way.
“But they’re not all homeless, are they,” asked Huffman at Delaware’s State Police Headquarters.
“No, I mean just looking at the ones I’ve seen, probably half are probably homeless,” said Sergeant Joseph Rose who heads up the Sex Offender Registration Unit.
Timothy Collins is one of the men on Delaware’s Sex Offender Registry.
He’s been convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse, 3rd degree.
The victim is listed on the website as being between 1 and 11-years-old.
According to the registry, Collins is homeless, he has a car and two jobs.
He registered Delaware Drive as the address for one of those jobs.
But that address turned out to be a home.
And undercover, Collins told us that is where he lives.
“I’m staying temporarily in New Castle,” he said.
“You said you’re staying with family,” asked Huffman.
“My grandparents yeah, grandfather actually,” Collins said.
The I-Team followed Collins and then watched him come and go from that same house on Delaware Drive.
Christoper Crouch is on the Delaware Sex Offender Registry.
Crouch is classified as a high risk offender with convictions in two separate cases.
He also says he is homeless.
But Crouch had a different story on hidden camera.
He told us he lives in a house on Lanford Road in New Castle.
That’s where we found the red Explorer he was driving.
But all of this was news to police.
So we asked Crouch about it.
He told us, “I ain’t got time for this”.
Crouch also told us he sleeps in the car outside the house.
And the next day he told police the same.
But that information is still nowhere to be found on the registry.
“Why not make that information public,” Huffman asked Sergeant Rose.
“According to Delaware law that’s all we’re supposed to release,” said Rose.
Bottom line, police did not know where Collins or Crouch were sleeping.
And now that they do, they still can’t tell you.
Because by law, Delaware police can’t release details about where a sex offender is staying as long as he says he’s homeless.
“That’s not helping us, that’s not helping my kids,” said Heather Chickadell as she watched her three children playing outside her New Castle County home.
And that means the parents of children riding on the school bus that stops in front of the Lansdale home would never know a high risk offender like Crouch is living just steps away.
“That’s how they get away with being able to live anywhere they want because they just say they’re homeless, they don’t have nowhere to live and they’re living right behind you,” said Chickadell.
When we asked Collins if he thought that parents in his neighborhood have a right to know where he is living he threw his shirt over his head and walked away without answering.
And in a late development, Delaware State Police tell us that Christopher Crouch updated his registry to include the car that we saw him driving.
The laws for homeless sex offenders are different state by state.
In Pennsylvania, homeless offenders must tell police specific areas where they sleep.
Information so specific that Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law website would list location details like ‘under the bridge in Coatesville at the intersection of 13th Street and Lincoln Highway’.
That’s not the case in Delaware.
What about New Jersey?
The New Jersey State Parole Board says there’s no such thing as registering as a homeless sex offender.
The sex offender management unit works with offenders to find a place for them to live.
And frequently that’s in a homeless shelter.
That address is then listed the sex offender registry.
Officials randomly check up to make sure they’re staying at the shelter’s address.
And if they move, the move has to get approved by parole board.
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