WOODS CROSS — Police in Woods Cross are now tweeting, Facebooking and texting updates when sex offenders move into town.
The first tweet went out Wednesday, reading “New to the area” and linking to the official sex offender registry listing of a man convicted of attempted forcible sexual abuse in 2000.
“That’s information we just want to share with the public,” Woods Cross Police Chief Greg Butler said Thursday.
Butler said he received the OK from the Utah Department of Corrections to invoke the powers of social media to inform residents. He said the information is already public and found in multiple places.
“I know as a parent that I registered my home where I live and I like to know who’s in my neighborhood,” Butler said. “Certainly, I’m sure the offenders themselves don’t like the information out there.”
There is demand. Multiple residents Thursday said they either actively track sex offender information, or they were interested in knowing who might be next door or down the street.
“I definitely think it’s great to know if my kids are going to be safe when they’re out playing,” resident Karl Johnson said.
Civil rights attorney Brian Barnard said he doesn't dispute the legality of tweeting or the fact that the information is public — the issue is backed by multiple court decisions.
He does have concerns about the Utah Sex Offender Registry and who is on it.
“Many states have a tiered system where only sex offenders who are prone to reoffend are listed,” Barnard said. “Utah lists many, many people on the sex offender registry who are not prone to reoffend.”
This session, the Utah Legislature passed a measure that allows people convicted of unlawful sexual contact with a 16- or 17-year-old, or with a minor, to petition a judge to get their names removed from the registry after five years.