After a NewsChannel 3 investigation exposed a controversial Virginia State Police policy not to post images for some wanted sex offenders, the public is now able to view the faces of every wanted sex offender in Hampton Roads.
If you had checked the Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry website months ago, you would have not seen the face of wanted sex offender Bobby Moore, convicted of molesting a seven-year-old girl in Norfolk and paying her a dollar not to tell. In fact, you would not have seen the faces of more than a dozen of the state’s nearly 300 wanted sex offenders because of the Virginia State Police Department’s policy not to post images of wanted offenders that are not considered current.
“It’s very disturbing,” Newport News rape survivor Angela Owens-Crowell said of the previously missing mug shots. “You just don’t know who you’re living next to, you don’t really know until you have a picture in your brain.”
NewsChannel 3 discovered the faceless offenders late last year after digging through the state’s sex offender registry. Investigator Jessica Larche even dug up some of the mug shots on our own by searching through decades old court records.
When NewsChannel 3 took those findings to VSP, they explained they already had many of the images for their own investigative purposes. However, it was against department policy to post images of offenders if the pictures were not considered current.
“We cannot stick a photograph of someone even though we know it’s them, we cannot put it on the website because it will compromise the integrity of our site,” said Virginia State Police Sgt. Charles Plaza in February 2011.
After receiving backlash from the story, the Virginia State Police broke their policy and posted the images of nearly every wanted offender that previously had no image attached.
“The Virginia State Police has debated the issue for several years about providing an individual’s mug shot in the place of a current photograph on the Virginia Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry,” VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller said in a statement to NewsChannel 3. “The concern is that a decades-old photograph is most probably not an accurate representation of an individual and could provide a false sense of security for the public. In addition, some mug shots simply are not conducive to including on the Registry as they may be poor quality or a side profile.
“However, this spring the Department went ahead and posted the available mug shots of those individuals without a current picture. This change only applies to about a dozen or so offenders out of the more than 17,000 featured on the entire registry.”
Rape survivor Barbara Shine feels the state’s decision to post images is a step in the right direction. “I think it’s great that you got results,” said Shine. “I felt good that there were enough outcries that the police felt moved to do something.”
Click on photo gallery of wanted Hampton Roads sex offenders. If you recognize any of them or know where they are, contact the Virginia State Police at (804) 674-2000 or send them a tip on their website (http://sex-offender.vsp.virginia.gov/sor/showcommentspage.html). If you are the victim of sexual assault, contact the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence 24 hour hotline at 1-800-838-8238.