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By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
One-hundred-one registered sex offenders call Del Norte County home.
This means that at least one out of every 280 people residing here are convicted sexual predators the second highest per capita number in the entire state. Only Trinity County can claim more, where every 270th person you meet is a registered sexual offender.
But it's not the proximity of the redwoods or the ocean that bring convicted sex offenders into our community.
"What happens is you have these people coming out of prison and they're coming home," said Ed Fleshman, a detective with the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office.
He said that at any given time there are between 90 and 120 registered sex offenders in Del Norte County.
"It's a full time job to monitor them and supervise them," said Fleshman, who has worked at the Sheriff's Office since 2003.
When sex offenders are released into the community, they must register with local law enforcement agencies, and every year within five days of their birthday they must re-register. This includes notifying law enforcement agencies when they move or change addresses.
Del Norte County is particularly effective at dealing with sexual predators especially catching them, Fleshman said.
"We have a real aggressive law enforcement response to sex crimes in this county," Fleshman said. "If there is a good case, those people are going to get convicted.
"And when you have successful prosecution of sex crimes you have more people reporting sex crimes."
Though this seems like a hopeful sign of ridding Del Norte of sexual predators, it actually brings them back into the community.
"Here's a vicious cycle," Del Norte County District Attorney Mike Riese said. "The more successful you are in prosecution, the more sex offenders you have in the community. It's the ultimate Catch-22."
That's because sexual predators, when paroled from prison, must return to the county in which they were convicted.
"It's not that we have more sex offenders per capita," Riese, who specializes in prosecuting sex cases, said. "This community is just more vigilant on their arrests and convictions."
But Benita Cabrera and 11-year employee of the North Coast Rape Crisis Team said she notices another trend that might attribute to the exceptionally high number of sexual predators in Del Norte County.
"I think we're finding more generational incest," she said.
Cabrera noted that many sex offenders were once victims of their own crimes and that caused them to assault others. This can have a cascading effect on their victims as well, especially if in a family environment.
"When these children were abused," she said, "nobody was able to tell them that that wasn't OK. That's a huge reason why we have so many registered sex offenders. Sometimes they'll grow up and perpetrate that on others."
Riese said that he believes many of the convicted sexual predators in the community should be "warehoused" because they present an enormous liability the chance to re-commit.
"The ones that are predatory and opportunistic pedophiles ... to them it's an act of affection rather than something that is morally repulsive," he said, thus making them think what they're doing is not wrong.
And through his experience Riese has created a concise generalization of these criminals.
"Once a pedophile, always a pedophile."
Sex Offender List
To view a list of registered sex offenders in Del Norte County or other parts of California you can link to the Megan's Law Web site by visiting www.triplicate.com and clicking on this story.
How to get Help
The North Coast Rape Crisis Team provides a confidential 24-hour crisis hotline for victims of sexual abuse and can provide advocates to help those wishing to come forward. The team can be reached at 707-465-2851.