Georgia sting operation leads to arrest of 221 sex offenders

Operation Watchful Eye is led by Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson

A Walker County Sheriff's car is parked blocking Walker Hollow Road after a standoff between police and Bobby McConathy that began around 2:30 a.m.

I'm thankful we got those weapons out of people's hands.

During the week of Oct. 26-31, 221 sex offenders were arrested in Georgia, according to a news release from the Georgia Sheriffs' Association.

Operation Watchful Eye was the first act carried out by Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson, who was appointed president of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association on July 29.

photo Walker County Sheriff Steven Wilson talks in his office about shooting that took place Monday night at 1249 Straight Gut Road on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Rock Spring, Ga. Michael James Gobert has been charged with one count of murder and two counts of aggravated assault after the Walker County Sheriff's Department says he opened fire with a handgun on a vehicle occupied by Johnny "J.J." Montgomery, Edrius J. Putman, and Deisman Harrison, killing Montgomery and injuring Putman in the leg.

Throughout Georgia, there are 11,982 registered sex offenders, 224 predators and 145 homeless sex offenders. Wilson said 116 out of 159 Georgia sheriffs participated.

During the six-day operation, authorities conducted 8,045 residence verifications, the release said. That involved deputies knocking on sex offenders' doors and verifying some details about their lives - where they work, who's living with them, etc. - and if deputies noticed anything suspicious, they would enter the residence and investigate.

During the search, authorities found and seized 28 firearms, 27 other weapons, 31 cases of illegal drugs, 36 sexually explicit items and 800 sex-related images.

What really surprised Wilson was the number of weapons that were seized. These are convicted felons, he said, and are prohibited by law from owning firearms.

"That was alarming, that was unexpected," Wilson said. "I did not think about that happening. I'm thankful we got those weapons out of people's hands."

Wilson got the idea for the operation after he led a 2010 Walker County Halloween initiative called Operation Candy Corn, during which law enforcement did the same thing. So he talked with officials and decided to carry out the operation statewide this Halloween.

"It's tied, somewhat, to the activity associated with Halloween, because a lot of children are out there," Wilson said. "A lot of the sex offenders have been convicted pedophiles."

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or423-757-6731.