How One Police Officer Tracks 461 RI Sex Offenders


There's a daily cat-and-mouse game between hundreds of sex offenders living in Providence and the lone cop in charge of managing them, reports the Providence Journal. Chris Poncia visits the ramshackle triple-deckers and apartment houses where sex offenders rent rooms and apartments. He checks the two shelters in the city that allow sex offenders, and he sees who's staying the night. He cruises by the vacant lots, the parks, the abandoned buildings and bus stops where some gather in packs, hanging around with nothing to do. He parks and pulls out binoculars so he can watch them from a distance. Who are they with? Are they drinking alcohol? Are they around children?

Poncia knows the sex offenders are also watching him. Some wave as he drives by. There are about 1,600 registered sex offenders in Rhode Island, and 461 of them live in Providence. The city is a hub for sex offenders in Rhode Island, for many reasons. There are more social services and low-income housing. A city also allows transients more opportunities to “disappear,” Poncia says. Poncia likes the sex offenders to know that he's watching them. “The crimes that sex offenders do change people's lives. It haunts them,” Poncia says. “And Rhode Island being so small, the victim and the sex offender can cross each other's paths.”

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