When Richmond police showed up at the Shell gas station where Jimmy Stage is a cashier, it wasn’t to fill up their cruisers.

Just as the sun went down Thursday night, an operation to round up non-compliant sex offender registrants also went down on the streets of Richmond.

Stage was one of four arrested for allegedly violating a new state law which bars registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of an area where children gather. Areas in close proximity to schools, playgrounds and day care facilities are among locations where offenders are now prohibited from living.

“They know what the new law is and they’ve had plenty of time to move,” RPD Maj. Steve Gregg said, “But, they’ve failed to do that so we have to enforce (the law) for the safety of the children and everybody else.”

Richmond’s investigation came Thursday in the wake of a national fugitive round-up targeting nearly 11,000 sex offenders and other criminals, led by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Of the 40 Richmond residents registered on Kentucky’s sex offender registry, six were found to be non-compliant. Stage, James Wilson Johnson, Shannon Eugene Wade and John Wayne Medley were arrested Thursday night. RPD Detective Eric Long, who led the operation, said warrants will be obtained for the other two offenders next week.

“They were notified July 12, 2006, and given 90 days from that date (to move),” Long said. “Oct. 12 at midnight the new law came into effect with the restriction. I think they were given ample notice.”

Johnson, 50, of 324 Fifth St., Apt. B, was among the first to be arrested. Johnson registered as a sex offender in 1998 after he was convicted of two counts of third-degree rape. The victim Johnson was convicted of raping was younger than 16, according to Kentucky State Police Sex Offender Registry records.

Johnson allegedly was found to be living within 923 feet of a day care facility at 401 Main St. He was arrested at his apartment Thursday night, where he said he had been living for five or six years.

Wade, 33, also was arrested at his home at 311 Irvine Drive, where he allegedly was living within 900 feet of a day care facility on the same road. Following a third-degree rape conviction, Wade registered as a sex offender in 1997. The victim Wade is convicted of raping was 14 years old at the time of the incident, according to the SOR records.

Stage, 52, of 1658 Foxhaven Drive, Apt. 10, was working at the gas station when officers arrived to arrest him. Convicted of second-degree sodomy, Stage registered as a sex offender in 2000. No age is listed for the victim of Stage’s crime. Stage allegedly was living within 770 feet of a day care facility on Fox Haven Drive.

Johnson, Wade and Stage are all charged with being a registered sex offender residing in a restricted area, first offense. The misdemeanor charge subjects each violator to a penalty of up to one year in jail if convicted. The second offense increases the penalty to a felony prison term of one to five years upon conviction.

“These people are living within 1,000 feet of ... places where children gather on a day-to-day basis,” Long said. “Given the crimes committed in the past, it’s a risk.”

Long said the recidivism rate for sexual offenders is proven to be higher than that of persons convicted of non-sexual crimes.

“There’s always that possibility they may commit these crimes again,” he said. “By them living in that 1,000 feet restriction, that ups the chances of it occurring again.”

Medley, 31, was among the alleged offenders rounded up Thursday, but was charged with failure to comply with the sex offender registry, a felony which carries a penalty of one to five years in prison. Medley originally was thought to be living within the 1,000-foot restricted area, but instead allegedly had not reported to the proper authorities his new address at the Hynes Motel. Medley was convicted of the third-degree sexual abuse of a 14-year-old child and registered as a sexual offender in 2002.

Long said the sting was the result of a three to four week investigation. Seven officers from RPD’s Investigations and Street Crimes units worked to make the arrests. Long said he thinks the new law is a very effective one.

“The law enforcement agencies are very eager to get this one enforced,” Long said. “The citizens — especially the ones who live around the sex offenders and in their neighborhoods and send their children to the day cares and schools — they want this enforced because they see it as making it a safer place. And it does make it a safer place.”

Long said he has heard complaints from offenders ranging from a lack of money to move to being unaware that they were living within the restricted guidelines.

“The common answer I’ve gotten so far is that they really didn’t think they were (non-compliant),” Long said. “They thought someone would contact them and let them know they were living inside the restricted area. However, I informed them that the notice they got back in July said the burden was on them to find out, and that’s how the statutes states it. It is on them to be aware of their surroundings.”

Kelly Foreman can be reached at kforeman@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.

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