AMARILLO, TX - Homeless sex offenders are required to register with the Texas Department of Public Safety but even though they are on file, certain offenders are able to slide under the system.
The state operates a web site where anyone can look up sex offenders who live in their neighborhood, but a growing number of them are labeling themselves as "homeless," which could make it difficult for law enforcement to track them down.
There are more than 600 registered offenders in Amarillo. It's a growing statistic that's been on the city commissions' radar for months with long debates over changes to where sex offenders can live in relation to schools, parks and playgrounds.
But how can rules apply if you don't have tabs on where some of them live?
"There are a couple (homeless residents) in town who must report every week," Cpl. Jerry Neufeld with the Amarillo Police Department said. "They have to show up here ever week so we can check in with them.
Neufeld says as long as the offender keeps in contact with them, labeling themselves as homeless is not against the law.
However, it could open a door up for future problems. Over the past few years, Texas has seen a spike in homeless offenders.
"Anyone that stays with us and sleeps with us, has a background check done," Jena Taylor with Faith City Ministries said. "The rule was implemented six years ago when an incident arose that involved a sex offender and the board decided that this is what we're going to do."
Many homeless shelters have began to conduct background checks to protect their residents.
"We're not able to keep them here because we have children here," she said. "God loves sex offenders but we have to love them from a distance."
Nine convicted offenders in Potter and Randall County are listed as "transients." Neufeld says because of that, those folks are required to keep in touch much more frequently with police verse those offenders with listed addresses.
"Where we have a current address, those people report every six months or maybe even every year," he said.
Police say they have a pretty good idea where most of their homeless offenders are staying and that thus far, they haven't experienced any problems.
Commissioner Brian Eades also said he's impressed with law enforcement's proactive measures in keeping up with the city's sex offenders.
To search for registered offenders in your area, visit https://records.txdps.state.tx.us/DPS_WEB/SorNew/index.aspx