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By Reed S. Albers
The Progress

PETERSBURG, Va. - When it comes to keeping children safe from sexual predators, the Virginia State Police have a special unit devoted to keeping the public informed through its Internet database.
The Sex Offender Investigative Unit (SOIU) keeps sex offenders in check, and frequently updates their information on the Virginia State Police Web site, which can be used to locate sex offenders in one's neighborhood.
The SOIU was started in 2006. The program currently consists of 40 state troopers, each keeping tabs on 150 different sex offenders.
"We are tasked with maintaining the sex offender database in Virginia," said SOIU member John Houlberg.
With 15,000 registered sex offenders in Virginia, the SOIU monitors about 6,000. The remainder are supervised by other groups; parole officers keep tabs on 3,000, while 5,000 are currently housed in correctional facilities.
"All of our efforts are to keep the database updated for the public," Houlberg said. "Use the Web site, find out where they are."
The database is not just a list of names, but allows a user to see a map of where an offender is. It also allows one to choose a sex offender and receive e-mail notification should any of his information change.
While the database is an excellent tool in protecting the public, it is not always an easy task to keep updated.
Officers must ensure that each sex offender notifies them of their place of residence, car ownership, place of work and of any e- mail addresses, chat room screen names or other electronic communications.
If an offender finds new work, purchases a new car or moves to a new residence, they have three days to notify authorities.
If any electronic communication names or addresses change, offenders have 30 minutes to notify authorities.
The strict monitoring isn't just to keep tabs on where the offenders are. "It's going to be harder for them to go on the run," Houlberg said.
In addition to the constant notification of address changes and whereabouts, the SOIU unit visits the sex offender's supposed location twice a year as a way to confirm that the information provided is valid.
"Sometimes we go there and it's not really their house, but their friend's," Houlberg said. "(Checking information) is one of the reasons we formed this unit. We needed a group to check these locations."
The SOIU unit is constantly busy checking locations and keeping tabs on sex offenders. It also tracks them down when an offender is on the run.
State Police are currently searching for Randy Alan Braverman, 30, a sex offender who supplied false information.
Braverman is a 30-year-old while male wanted by the City of Chesapeake Sheriff's Office for a probation violation on an original charge of carnal knowledge of a 13-to-15-year-old.
State Police believe Braverman is staying in the Prince George/ Petersburg area with relatives or friends. According to the State Police Web site, Braverman is believed to be driving a beige four- door 2001 Buick LeSabre with the license plate No. KMX-3498.
"Be on the lookout, and check his information on the Web site," Houlberg said. Any information on Braverman's whereabouts should be reported to Crime Solvers at 804-733-2777; Houlberg at 800-552- 9965, or Prince George Police Det. Nick Wilder at 804-733-2770.
Other sex offenders who state police are looking for include Christopher Kenneth Adams, a 40-year-old white male reported to be in the Colonial Heights/Dinwiddie area, and D'shay Cornell Cooke, a 23-year-old black male last seen in the Petersburg area.

The sex offender's registry is available at www.vsp.state.va.us.

Wire Service
 
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