Dozens of Grainger County sex offenders get surprise visits from law enforcement

RUTLEDGE (WATE) – Five registered sex offenders in Grainger County were arrested in a two-day operation led by the United States Marshals Service and the Smoky Mountains Fugitive Task Force.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Stephanie Beecken went with the US Marshals and the Grainger County sheriff as they knocked on doors and checked to make sure sex offenders were following the registry law. She saw several sex offenders arrested in just a few hours.

After an operation planning meeting, the task force broke into four teams. They traveled across the county checking on the 33 registered sex offenders.

Grainger County Sheriff James Harville says this operation was set up a few weeks ago.

“We discovered a sex offender from another state was actually living in Grainger County in a house with some small children and he was required, of course, to register here and hadn’t,” said Sheriff Harville.

As law enforcement approached the door of the sex offender’s home, US Marshal Derrick Swenson said they must proceed with extreme caution.

“They don’t know why we are knocking on the door so we have to be extremely careful when we do that,” said US Marshals Inspector Swenson.

Law enforcement checks to make sure the sex offenders are actually living in the home their registered to be in. They also check to make sure all the information on the records is still accurate, like where the offender works and the type of car they drive. If the offense was against a child, they are checking to see if children are at the home.

“There might be some evidence of some ongoing criminal activity. There might be narcotics in the house. There might be weapons in the house,” said Swenson.

At one stop, law enforcement found the sex offender in the front yard of his home. He was taken into custody.

“We actually found drug paraphernalia in the house and he also had a warrant on him for not paying his sex offender registry fines,” said Swenson.

The task force made another stop and another arrest. This time the offender’s computer was taken to be investigated.

“He is in custody for not divulging all his email addresses and social media sites he’s a member of,” said Swenson.

The US Marshals say the sex offenders must check in with the sheriff’s office at least once a year, but it is very important to have these surprise compliance checks to make sure they are following the TBI’s sex offender registry laws to help keep the community safe.

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