EASTERN CAROLINA - Under North Carolina law, registered sex offenders cannot live closer than 1,000 feet from a school or daycare. But NewsChannel 12 discovered some sex offenders are living closer than that distance-- and according to deputies, it's legal.
NewsChannel 12's Anna Bulszewicz began her report by going door-to-door, asking local sex offenders themselves if they were complying with state law.
She talked to registered Carteret County sex offender Arthur Jank, who said, "I have checked with the sheriff and U.S. Probation Office and they both have cleared this house."
Mr. Jank was referring to his Morehead City residence when asked if he was far enough away from a nearby school and dance studio.
According to North Carolina law, any person required to register as a sex offender is prohibited from residing within 1,000 feet of the property of any public or private school or licensed child care center. Home schools, colleges and universities aren't included.
We sorted through hundreds of sex offender registries in several area counties, including Lenoir, Craven and Carteret. One offender stood out in particular: Sergio Dandre Scott. He was charged with indecent liberties with a minor twice. Scott is from Craven County. We went to his house located in New Bern on Beaufort Lane and measured for ourselves. We discovered he's living approximately 900 feet from J.T. Barber Elementary school in New Bern, 100 feet closer than the law permits. Even more shocking, we learned deputies can't do anything about it.
The sex offender statute says the 1,000 feet restriction doesn't apply to an offender who established residency at the address before Aug. 16, 2006. Our investigation uncovered Scott registered as a sex offender just two days before that date.
We sat down with Craven County Sheriff Investigator Wes Heckman to find out how the law works.
"He was actually living there before the law came into effect. That's the part he's grandfathered under," said Heckman.
We dug further into the sex offender registry in Lenoir County. On a Google Maps, convicted sex offender Delvelchhio Taylor appeared to live less than 1,000 feet from nearby Teacher's Memorial School. After we measured, we learned Taylor lives slightly more than 1,000 feet away. We talked to one neighbor who said she didn't even know a sex offender was living in her neighborhood, let alone that close to a school.
After speaking with officials at several local Sheriff's Offices, we learned it's their job to constantly enforce the ever-changing sex offender laws based on federal recommendations.
Law enforcement officials urge citizens to check the registry to learn if there's a sex offender living in your neighborhood. They say if you find something that's concerning, it's up to you to report it.