On Thursday, law enforcement from Muscogee County and Russell County were sworn in on the Frank K.Memorial Bridge in an effort to make sure sex offenders do not step out of line.
Five Muscogee County Sheriff’s Deputies and three Russell County Sheriff’s Officers were sworn in. Their oath is the first step in tracking the 167 registered sex offenders in Russell County and the more than 500 in Muscogee County that may drift between the bi-cities. The partnership will also eliminate jurisdictional boundaries the agencies may run into while taking legal action across state lines and make it easier to obtain criminal records.
“Our community is so intertwined, that they’re crossing that river on a daily basis, and we need to have a better handle on our sex offenders on both sides of the river as far as where they are and making sure that they’re not in any violation,” Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said.
“This will give the officers tasked with tracking these sex offenders a new working relationship between the agencies,” Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr added. “It is an arrangement that will make all counties involved safer.”
The new task force comes on the heels of new laws regarding sexual abuse victims that went into effect in Georgia on Wednesday.
House Bill 17, also known as the “Hidden Predator Act,” pushes back the statute of limitations, now giving former child sexual abuse victims until the age of 23 to sue their abuser.
It also gives victims whose statute of limitations had already expired under the previous law until July 1, 2017 to file a civil suit.
A new statewide sex offender registry has also been created for Georgia. Any sex offender who is not in that registry, will become the target of the new bi-city alliance.
“When they fail to register, it’s our job to find them and hold them accountable,” Phenix City Police Chief Raymond Smith said. “It’s the community’s right to know that these people are in the community and whenever they try to avoid that. Moving across state lines is one of the ways they try to avoid that.”