Budget constraints hindering new sex offender tracking program

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PHOENIX - A new law makes it easier to track sex offenders, but will the state budget crunch delay when it goes into effect?

This is a controversial new law set to go in to effect this summer, but for one Valley father, all of this comes too late.

His five year old son was the victim of an alleged predator who has a history of crimes against children.

"I just fell to the ground; I think I cried more that day than ever in my entire life," Paul Whittaker said.

It was the day Whittaker found out his son had become the victim of a child molester.

The crime happened at a Scottsdale apartment complex in January.

The accused predator is 23-year-old Steven Othberg. Othberg is a guy who was making fast friends with people in the neighborhood and then offering to babysit.

"He was a well liked guy, one of the guys," Whittaker said.

Whittaker said his ex-wife went to work and left their son with Othberg. When she got back, the five-year-old told her about sexual acts that had taken place.

According to court paperwork, Othberg later admitted to police that he had sexual urges toward children.

"He confessed to molesting your son? Yes. He confessed." Whittaker said.

In fact, records show Othberg had been arrested for a similar crime in Ohio where he took a plea deal and moved to Arizona without having to register as a sex offender.

"We have sex offenders running around that have not been adjudicated, not been arrested, processed, we have no idea who they are," said Sgt Harold Sanders with DPS.

There are14,535 registered sex offenders in Arizona and an additional 626 absconders, sex offenders who have fallen off the radar.

A new law set to take effect July 1 aims to tighten the way we track potentially dangerous criminals who The legislation organizes sex offenders into three tiers and mandates that tier 3 offenders, the most serious tier, update their whereabouts every three months with lifetime registration requirements. Tier 2 offenders update their whereabouts every six months with 25 years of registration and tier 1 offenders update their whereabouts every year with 15 years of registration. Failure to register and update information is made a felony under the law. It also creates a national sex offender registry and instructs each state and territory to apply identical criteria for posting offender data on the internet.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act:

-requires every state to have an on-line registry

-requires states to organize offenders in to three tiers

-and mandates that level 3 offenders, the most dangerous, update their whereabouts every three months with lifetime registration requirements.

But coming in to compliance with this new law, for many states in a budget crunch is tough. The Arizona Department of Public Safety had to file for a one year extension.

"It's incredibly important that the information is standardized so that everybody across the country is looking at the same thing when they pull somebody up on one of these web sites, they know what the information means," Mischa Hepner said.

Hepner is an attorney with the Arizona Voice for Crime Victims, a non-profit group that fights for victims and their families. She said the Adam Walsh Act will force more sex offenders, like accused child predator Steven Othberg, to stay on the radar or face felony charges.

"When a predator moves in to your neighborhood around your children, you need to know who they are," Hepner said.

In the case of Othberg, there's a plea deal on the table. He could serve as little as five years behind bars.

The victim's family tells 3 On Your Side they aren't happy with this plea deal, but their main concern is that this time Othberg is forced to register as a sex offender.

"I want justice for my son," Whittaker said.

3 On Your Side will be following Othberg's case. He's due in court on Thursday.

3OYS LINKS Information about tracking . Adam Walsh . To reach Mischa Hepner and the , call (480) 600-2661 or (480) 965-5640.