How the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department tracks the area’s high number of convicted sex offenders

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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – On Tuesday, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department announced the arrest of five convicted sex offenders within the last 30 days.

“I don’t see many repeat offenders as far as what the original offense was, (that) they come back out and re-offend,” says Lt. Tony Cooper. “Most of the ones I see are the ones that fail to keep up their registration.”

That was the case in four of the arrests the sheriff’s department made. However, Lt. Cooper says Noel Sumrall was arrested in Columbus in late July for a repeat offense of the exploitation of children.

“Arrested for exploitation of a child, he went in and served his time and then got out and was doing it again,” he says.

It’s that kind of worst-case scenario that Lt. Cooper and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office Sex Offender Registry Compliance Unit are constantly working to prevent. Lowndes County currently has 145 registered sex offenders, the highest number of any county in the Golden Triangle.

Which is why Lt. Cooper says they use every resource, database and tracking system at their disposal to make sure those sex offenders stay at their registered home addresses.

“We can see where they are using addresses, perhaps they’re buying a car or they’re renting,” he says. “Anything that’s turned into their credit scores, it will show up in these reports.”

Even if there is no “home” to go along with the address.

“If they’re living in a box on the corner of Main and 3rd (streets), they’re required to put down, ‘Living in cardboard box on Main and 3rd,’ so that deputy can go to Main and 3rd and look for that box and locate that individual.”

Lt. Cooper says homeless sex offenders can be more challenging to keep track of, as illustrated by the case of Linious Bell.

“We had one individual (Bell) who was just convicted this term of circuit court, who it took us about two years to find him,” the lieutenant recalls. “He got out of prison, registered homeless and then disappeared.”

Bell was finally arrested in Memphis after being put on the wanted list for the National Sex Offender Registry.

Fortunately, Lt. Cooper says Lowndes County does not have very many convicted sex offenders registered as homeless.

“I’m still gonna go to wherever they say they live and verify it,” he says. “And if they’re not where they’re supposed to be, then we will proceed with a warrant and look to arrest them.”

Sex offenders who do not register with the sheriff’s office face felony charges and up to five years in state prison.

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