Sex offenders in Granite City will soon have to start paying a $100 fee to register with police, as required by law.
In 2010, the state increased the annual fee for sex offender registration from $10 to $100 a year. But even before that action, the fee largely wasn’t being collected in the majority of Illinois municipalities, according to news reports, because most of the convicted sex offenders could not afford it.
Until now, Granite City has not charged sex offenders a fee for registering with police, according to Police Chief Rich Miller. "Most of them don’t pay anyway," he said, so they have not tried to collect it.
The state recently notified Granite City that the state will begin seeking its portion of the $100 fees. Miller said he explained to state officials that the offenders were not charged the fee, and the city does not owe money when the fee is not collected. As a result, he proposed that Granite City begin to collect the fee.
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“It’s a way for the city to recoup the cost of dealing with this,” Miller said. “The money is a tool given to us by the state.”
The City Council voted Tuesday in favor of collecting the fee, with the sole no vote coming from Councilman Walmer Schmidtke. Of the $100 fee, $35 is retained by the city; $5 goes to the Sex Offender Management Board Fund; $30 goes to the Illinois State Police Sex Offender Registry, and $30 goes to the Illinois Attorney General’s sex offender awareness, training and education program.
Granite City Police Maj. Ken Rozell, who will administer the program, said the city averages about 70-80 sex offenders in town at any given time. If someone doesn’t have the money to pay the fee, though, he said it will be waived; they must register the offenders regardless of their ability to pay, according to state law.
“It’s not like we’re getting a windfall from this,” Rozell said.
Sex offenders are required to register once a year for 10 years, or any time they move to a new residence. Offenders designated as sexually dangerous or violent must register every 90 days for life. Sexual predators also must register annually for life. Offenders who live outside the city limits must register with the county sheriff’s department.
Miller said if the offenders don’t pay the fee, there should be some consequences. Offenders who are delinquent in their fees should not be able to get business permits, water tap-ons or other municipal services unless they first pay their fee, he said. “Don’t stop here, let’s do all of it,” he said.
Schmidtke said he was opposed to collecting the fee because he feared sex offenders would simply skip registering if they were required to pay.
Also opposed is Madison County Public Defender John Rekowski, who said most of the people who are required to register cannot afford the $100 fee. He said many cannot get good jobs and are limited in the places where they can live.
“They have become pariahs,” he said. “They can’t get decent employment, and that money is an impossible sum. … If the real purpose (of the registry) is to protect the public, don’t we want to make it as easy as possible for these people to register?”
Rekowski said he was opposed to the idea that the criminal justice system is supposed to be self-supporting through fees. “It is a recent trend that makes no sense,” he said. “If we learn anything from Ferguson, it’s that nickel-and-diming people who have no money is not a good idea … it doesn’t work.”
Other jurisdictions that collect the fee include Madison County Sheriff’s Department, Pontoon Beach and Caseyville, which recently began collecting. Edwardsville charges the fee, and Police Chief Jay Keeven said in their experience, most offenders do pay it. “If they are in dire straits, we have worked with them and given them time to pay it,” he said.
Some departments that do not attempt to collect the fee include Glen Carbon and Collinsville.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2507.