Sex offenders unaccounted for

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by JESSICA HOLLOWAY / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

kvue.com

Posted on June 13, 2012 at 6:28 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 14 at 10:42 AM

AUSTIN -- Federal, state and local law enforcement officers say sex offenders are falling through the cracks.

Mark Steven Bauman is one of those men. He was last seen in Austin two years ago. The 51-year-old is wanted for possession of child pornography, failing to register as a sex offender and more. Authorities fear he now lives somewhere in Central or South America.

How many more out there are like him? How can this be stopped? KVUE's Jessica Holloway has been investigating.

They live all around us, with numbers growing rapidly.

"It's very scary to know there's that many people around who would hurt children. As a parent, my biggest fear is what kind of world my children are growing up in," said father of two Devin Steuerwald.

Steuerwald lives not far from where Department of Public Safety's most wanted sex offender is accused of molesting children in Austin.

"I have two daughters. If their innocence was taken away by somebody, that would be unimaginable," said Steuerwald.

Keeping track of sex offenders is perhaps the most difficult job of all. U.S. Marshal Hector Gomez hunts them down.

"We can't lock them all up. We realize jails only have so much room," said Gomez.

According to both the Austin Police Department and DPS, 70,000 registered sex offenders live in Texas. Of those, 2,200 are unaccounted for, 1,400 registered sex offenders live in Austin, and of those approximately 50 have stopped checking in with police.

"You mind if I come in?" asked APD Officer Sam Tannous. He and a partner conducted a routine daily inspection at a group sex offender home in East Austin.

"One of the guys took off," said a sex offender who lives at the home.

"He took off?" asked Tannous. "Yes. He cut his ankle bracelette and ran."

APD does its best to monitor the sex offenders with a short staff of two officers, three detectives, a supervisor and an assistant. They keep track of hundreds of felons.

"I think it's the sheer numbers of sex offenders in Austin, those coming in, those leaving, keeping track of them all, really it's a numbers game," said Sgt. Liz Donegan. She's in charge of APD's SOAR Unit. SOAR stands for Sex Offender Apprehension and Registration.

Currently there is no database that allows police to keep tabs on sex offenders once they move to another state. Gomez has a solution.

"It would be to have some mechanism in place where all sex offenders are placed in a National Crime Information Center, the NCIC System. It would elevate them to a national wanted status and get them extradited back to their home state," said Gomez.

It's something that would put families like Devin Steuerwald's at ease.

 

"If you cross that line, yeah you should be tracked, and you should be known where you are at all times. I would love to see a big effort put towards that," said Steuerwald.

Failing to register as a sex offender is a felony and could send violators back to prison.

If you want to know whether any sex offenders live in your neighborhood, click here to search by address.

 

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