PORTLAND, Ore. - A proposed law about to go before Oregon lawmakers would expand the number of sex offenders listed on Oregon's searchable website.
Only a fraction of offenders currently appears on the site, the KATU Investigators learned last year.
Many families type their addresses into the site to find out if any sex offenders live near them, but chances are they click right past the "conditions of use statement" page, which explains in fine print that only sexually violent sex offenders and predatory sex offenders who have the highest risk of re-offending and require the widest range of notification appear.
In Oregon, that's less than 800 of the 18,000 sex offenders who must register with the state - roughly four percent.
Bridget Sicon, an officer with the Portland Police Bureau's sex offender registry detail, said the current system can gives families a false sense of security.
"This database only gives you predatory if you're a citizen," said Sicon.
She showed us the database that she has access to as a police officer. A search of a one-mile radius around KATU's studio turned up no sex offenders in the civilian database. When Sicon searched the police database, she found 32 sex offenders in the same area. Ordinary families searching the public database would not see those results.
The same pattern shows up across the Portland metro area.
House Bill 2549, now in the Ways and Means Committee in Salem, would overhaul the way Oregon's sex offenders are categorized by creating three levels of risk.
In doing so, an additional 400 sex offenders would be added to the state's public website, bringing the total to about 1,200.
Idaho puts 100 percent of its sex offenders on its public website. California lists 75 percent, and Washington puts about 30 percent on its public site.
Sex offender rights advocacy groups believe not listing all sex offenders on the Oregon website protects the privacy of those who committed lower-level crimes and have a very low risk of re-offending.
Until something changes in Oregon, Sicon believes people need to be made aware of the information they're not getting about the sex offenders who may live around them.
"I talk about it all the time with citizens to try and educate them," Sicon said.
We ran a search on both the public and police databases for several ZIP codes in the Portland area to compare how many registered offenders show up in each:
Number of offenders shown in public database
Number of offenders shown in police database
97205 (SW hills/Goose Hollow)
97214 (Inner SE Portland)
97232 (Inner NE Portland)
97239 (SW hills/Terwilliger)