Homeless sex offenders hard to track

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by Diane Moca

OAK CREEK - Police say homeless sex offenders are hard to track and have been found hanging out at places less than half a mile from a school.

"They could be living anywhere, and we wouldn't know it," said Detective Ann Golombowski.

Police and the public are supposed to know where registered sex offenders live through Wisconsin's Sex Offender Registry.

Officers say they are frustrated by a big loophole in the registry.

"I don't like the idea that they don't have to have an address because of course it's harder to track them," noted Det. Golombowski.

A Wisconsin Appeals Court ruled homeless sex offenders do not have to follow the law requiring them to report their address.

Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards called the ruling "ridiculous."

The court said only a small amount of offenders would be affected.

"How do we know that?" challenged Det. Golombowski. "We don't know that. We don't know how many... I think there's more than you think."

Police say Mark Akey served time for having sex with a 13-year-old and is supposed to report his address to the registry every year.

But the detective says Akey is "homeless," so he's only required to reveal the town where he happens to be during a weekly phone call.

CBS 58 went looking for Akey at places where he had been spotted before with no luck.

Police say he lives in his truck, and they've seen him or his unoccupied vehicle stuffed with his belongings six times from January 2011 to January 2012.

"We probably had more contacts with him now that he's homeless than when we were making checks on him," explained Det. Golombowski.

She said Robert Hartline has proven more elusive.

The detective said she noticed his name suddenly appear in the registry's listings for Oak Creek.

"I contacted the state. When did this guy move in? I want to do a face-to-face with him. His charge is second degree sexual assault of a child, and he's living in an area he's not allowed to live. Right after that it got changed. He's homeless again," she described.

CBS 58 went to the address Hartline previously listed and met his mother, who said he stays with a friend in West Allis.

Neighbors say they've seen Hartline at his mom's house, which is on a block full of kids and right behind an elementary school.

"He walks around, goes back; I think I've seen him shovel snow once in a while," said Bob Duvnjak.

Police say Hartline had sex with a 15-year-old when he was 20 years old, even after a court ordered him to have no contact with the girl.

The detective said Hartline should have to report his friend's address in West Allis instead of declaring he's homeless.

"A lot of them go underground because they don't want to have to be coming in," she noted.

The detective said California sex offender Adam Eckard stopped by her police station after he got a ride into town.

"He's a drifter; he's hitch hiking in Iowa, and two people that live in Oak Creek decide to pick the guy up and bring him home with them. He has been arrested in four states for sex offenses against children," said Det. Golombowski.

Police say they checked a national crime database and found nothing but prior convictions, so he walked out of the police station.

"He likes to expose himself. He likes to masterbate in front of kids, and he's out and about," she lamented.

The detective said she dug around for a couple days and discovered he was wanted in Utah for not reporting his address, but it was too late.

"He's already out of here. He's back in Illinois," she described.

That's why she hopes the United States will create a proposed national sex offender registry to track all of them, including the ones the detective says served very little prison time before sentencing laws changed.

"It was minimal, and I was like: You gotta be kidding!"

If you have an issue you'd like us to investigate, send an email to dmoca@cbs58.com.

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