INDIANAPOLIS — There are more than 1,800 sexual or violent offenders living in Marion County, more than half of which were convicted and sentenced from out-of-area, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
As part of the office's efforts to drive down the number of sex offenders in the community, the sheriff's office conducted a sweep Wednesday morning near Brookside Park.
The Sheriff's Office says 34 registered sex offenders live within a half mile of there.
"That is a ridiculous number to be in that neighborhood," said Sheriff Kerry Forestal.
Two suspected sex offenders were arrested during the sweep which took place in the neighborhood on the city's Near Eastside.
"The sweep was necessitated by the fact that thirty-four sexual or violent offenders reside within a half-mile radius of Brookside Park, sixteen of whom were convicted outside of Marion County," the Sheriff's Office said in a news release provided after the sweep was completed.
Marion County Sheriff's Capt. Mitch Gore told WRTV that the sweep was pre-planned and took several hours to complete. The sweep was given the name "Operation Watchful Eye."
The operation was conducted close to where a woman was fatally shot early Wednesday — but that investigation was handled by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and was unrelated to the sheriff's office's sweep.
More than 40 members of the sheriff's office, including its sexual and violent offender registry, K-9, warrant, intelligence and criminal investigations units; reserve division; and executive staff.
The two people arrested included one who was wanted on a warrant of juvenile rape and molestation charges and another who was arrested on suspicion of failing to register as a sex offender.
In addition to the arrests, the sheriff's office completed 34 compliance checks. Of those checks, 20 people were verified to be compliant with registration requirements and three are suspected to be non-compliant.
The sheriff's office also attempted to serve five warrants for sexual offenses.
There are currently 1,825 sexual or violent offenders living in Marion County, 52% of which were convicted and sentenced from another state or another county, according to the Sheriff's Office. That figure is up from 42% a year ago.
"We had two people here from Idaho. Why did somebody from Idaho decide to relocate and come here. Put our wives, daughters, grandchildren in danger," Forestal said.
"The MCSO has been successful in driving down the number of sex offenders in our community, but they are being backfilled by those sentenced from out-of-county. One of our goals remains to figure out why," the sheriff's office said in its release.
Sheriff Forestal said he believes part of the reason is because of the number of residents in Marion County.
"It's easier to hide here. If you live in Tipton they're going to know you. If you come and mix among 900,000 to one million people you may not," Forestal said.
He also says he believes there are too many programs conveniently located by the State government within Marion County saying they can use the bus lines.
"Hoosier hospitality is important, but not at the expense of the safety of Marion County residents,” Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal said in a written statement. “Operation Watchful Eye should serve as reminder to the public that they must be vigilant about who is in their neighborhood. But it should also serve as a warning to Marion County’s sex offender population: We are watching like a hawk and if you are not compliant, you will be found and arrested.”
Sheriff Forestal spoke candidly with WRTV about operation "Watchful Eye."
"I am not really there for their convince, they need to go back there and serve their county or their state," Forestal said.
When asked what Forestal would say to sex offenders he said, "We do not want you here."
The Sheriff says they will continue to follow up on this, adding they will be in Pike Township next week.
"If some of the people, especially the sex offenders, we will be up there. If you're not following the law go ahead and leave. We are giving you a weeks head start. Move out go back to wherever you came from. We should only be responsible for the people who committed crimes in Marion County."
Marion County residents can search for registered sex offenders living in their neighborhoods on the sheriff's office's website.
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