Convicted offenders listed on website
Convicted sex offenders live in residential areas in all ZIP codes in the Cypress area.
Sex offenders under court order to register where they live and work can be found in neighborhoods from Copperfield to Fairfield. The Texas Department of Public Safety maintains a Public Sex Offender Registry website where searches may be made by ZIP code, address, name, college and other means.
"Citizens should have the right to information of that nature," said Harris County Constable Precinct 5 Chief Deputy J.J. Laine, whose office works with the Harris County Sheriff's Office to monitor sex offenders living in the community.
"If you have a sex offender on your street, it certainly is good to know it."
Plug in ZIP code 77040, for example, and 47 registered sex offenders are listed. This triangular-shaped ZIP code includes Jersey Village and stretches roughly between Breen Drive on the north, U.S. 290 and Hempstead Road on the south, Jones Road on the west to near Bingle Road on the east.
All are men and they are in the system for offenses ranging from possession of child pornography and indecent exposure to aggravated sexual assault of a 4-year-old.
These offenders list employment as cooks and caddies, architects and medical consultants. Some own their own pool maintenance and automotive shops, while others work at drywall and tile installation or fencing sales.
ZIP code 77084 lists 70 sex offenders; 77429 has 55; 77041 has 42; 77433 has 38; 77095 and 77064 each have 32; 77070 has 31; and 77065 has 21.
And while no registered sex offenders are reported living inside Jersey Village, there were as many as six only a few years ago, said Police Chief Eric Foerster. Registered offenders can move frequently, as long as they update their address, car license and other information.
Beginning in 2010, the Houston and Harris County sex offender units moved to combined quarters to better monitor convicted offenders both in the city and in unincorporated areas. Offenders come to one centralized office to register. If they move, notice of the change moves from desk to desk instead of across town.
"It makes for better communication between the two agencies," said Lt. Ruben Diaz, who heads the Special Victims Unit of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
Diaz said people need to understand that the courts set restrictions, for example, on how often offenders must register and whether they can live near places where children gather.
"It depends on whether you are considered high or low risk. The judges and the courts decide that, and we do not," Diaz said.
The state sex offender registry website includes maps, photos of the listed offenders, where they work, and basic details of their crimes.
Officers in the field follow up on registration info, Diaz said.
"If I come looking for you, you better be where you say you are because we will file 'failure to comply' and put you in jail," he said.
Not every offender is known or listed on the website, Diaz said.
"It's a really good tool and people need to realize that's all it is. It's not a perfect system," he said. "Knowing where they reside or work is public awareness to the people who want to safeguard their children and themselves."
Sex offenders may also be required to list any colleges or universities where they work or attend classes, and the public can search by school. Two sex offenders, both men in their 20s, were recently listed as students at CyFair College, now Lone Star College-CyFair. One was convicted of indecency with a child by sexual contact involving a 6-year-old girl, and another of sexual assault of a child involving a 15-year-old girl.
The vast majority of registered sex offenders in the Cypress area are men. ZIP codes 77065, 77064 and 77429 each had one woman listed out of a total of 108 offenders between them. The women range in age from 43 to 32 and were convicted of offenses ranging from sexual assault of a child to aggravated sexual assault of a child. Their victims were male teenagers and a 21-year-old woman.
Two are unemployed and one works as a licensed engineer.
DPS advises "extreme care" in using any of the information posted on its website. "Searches based on names, dates of birth, or other alphanumeric identifiers are not always accurate," the website states. "The only way to positively link an individual to a specific sex offender record is though fingerprint verification."
The DPS website cautions: "Anyone who uses any information on this website to injure, harass, or for any other unlawful purpose may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability."
Law enforcement officials agree the website should not be misused.
"If used correctly the (sex offender registry) is a very appropriate tool," said Foerster. "It shouldn't be used as a tool for a vigilante group, or to harass or annoy, but it should be used for awareness.
"In this day and age when sentences are getting more and more lenient, and with prison overcrowding where they are trying to release as many people as they can, it is a tool to help protect yourself and your family," he said. "You as a parent need to know who's living next door to you."
More than 6,000 registered sex offenders are living within Harris County.
Sex offender registry information for Texas can be obtained by going to https://records.txdps.state.tx.us and then clicking "sex offender."
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