When are juvenile sex offenders identified?

by: Henry Rosoff Updated:

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Puyallup, Wash. - Police said a 7-year-old girl was lured into woods near a Puyallup apartment complex and they believe she may have been sexually assaulted. They arrested a 14-year-old neighbor boy in connection with the crime. While police try to figure out what could possibly be the motivation for this attack, KIRO 7 dug into the juvenile sex offender laws and touched base with a psychologist who has worked with teen sex offenders for more than 30 years. The law requires all offenders, no matter their age, to register with the local sheriff's office.

In the case of Pierce County, the sheriff's spokesman said the county puts the most dangerous juvenile sex offenders online so families can see if there are dangerous children living in their neighborhood.

Of the 929 listed offenders online in the county, seven are below the age of 18. However, the spokesman said it is up to local jurisdictions to decide how much information about juvenile sex offenders goes public. The spokesman described the Pierce County system as aggressive. He said other sheriff's offices do not share as much information.

Dr. Mark Whitehill said with an attack as violent and disturbing as the one described by Puyallup police, his experience and gut tell him the accused 14-year-old attacker was likely abused himself. "[He] is essentially taking out his anger and frustration on someone who is 'victimizable,' someone who he can feel a level of empowerment from in his own life," Whitehill said, stressing he was speaking in generalities about these types of situations. However, Whitehall said there is a scary and unusual element to this case: Police said the 14-year-old lured the younger child into the woods. "Typically with adolescence we see a much more impulsive act, where the planning is not very long," he said, adding that unfortunately it is harder to tell with children and teenagers if they will harm other children. His best advice to parents concerned about who their children are spending time with is to look at the past for guidance "to any aggressive acts by a child, particularly unprovoked aggressive acts."

Late Thursday, Puyallup police confirmed the 14-year-old they arrested was in a fight a week ago. It is believed to be unrelated to the alleged assault of the 7-year-old.