HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County Sheriff's Office offered WMBF News an inside look at how deputies keep track of sex offenders throughout the county.
"To the best of my knowledge, every sex offender that's ever registered we have a file on," Sgt. Chris Graham said as he looked at a room full of files.
Graham leads the HCSO's sex offender division and it's his job to know where the 537 sex offenders considered "active" are registered in the county. There's also a way residents can look them up as well.
"It's very important to the parents, as well as just the citizens in the county, who their neighbors are and find out what kind of background or history their neighbors are," Graham said. "If they are a sex offender, I mean I would want to know."
A search of WMBF News' office found that 13 offenders live within one mile of the station.
Graham also noted that offenders who list their address as something like "moped" or "Walmart parking lot" are homeless. He added that anyone with concerns is more than welcome to call for the information they cannot post online.
"We are on top of it, and we can give them a little bit more detail, explain, you know, why it shows the Walmart parking lot, because a lot of people don't understand," Graham said. "You know they ask how can they be homeless."
Graham said the thing residents need to keep in mind is there is no law, sex offender or not, saying a person can't be homeless. However, the sheriff's office does have notes on each and every one of the people it monitors who don't have homes.
That means noting everything from tattoos, scars, where they visit, eat, work and, most importantly, where to find them. For the latter, that may very well be the Walmart parking lot
"And it's their responsibility to let us know where they move to, whether it be a parking lot or under a tree," Graham said. "We have to know that and we have a deputy that works full time that verifies all sex offenders."
That deputy is Andrew Cooper. He monitors offenders from the county line to the beach.
WMBF News was along for a ride Cooper takes daily, gathering his list of offenders, typing in the addresses, and putting his car in drive.
"We aren't going to call him and say, 'Hey, I'm going to be here on a certain date, if you'll meet me there right then'. That wouldn't be a good verification," Cooper said. "I want to show up when they least expect me to show up. That way I know we have some good information on them and they are staying where they are supposed to be."
The system calls for offenders to be checked in on at least twice a year. That's not counting the two to four times they have to make their way to the registry office in Conway.
"Most of the time when I pull up to the offender's yard or the residence, they know what I'm usually there for," Cooper said.
From there, the deputy has to verify all the information listed is correct. When it's not, Cooper makes sure the right changes are made.
One particular offender was off a few numbers with his address and no longer had a cell phone.
"We'll follow up on that there, but he is here," Cooper said.
Even when the offenders aren't home, Cooper will go back, but still has to verify the person does live at the residence.
Any given month, Cooper could be doing up to 100 or more verification checks. Most of the offenders, he said, know the drill, understand why and really do not want to go back to jail.
"Oh yeah, because they sign contracts and stuff before they get out of prison," he said.
It's a system the sheriff's office said seems to be working.
"I think it's a totality of knowing where they live, knowing what kind of job they have so they know that we are watching them or we are keeping track of them," Graham said. "So if they have any thoughts of wanted to recommit, maybe what we do is deterring a lot of that."