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Sex Offender Registration Enforcement A Proactive Stance to Monitoring Convicted Sex Offenders.

What new charge allows law enforcement officers to intervene in such incidents? All three individuals failed to register as sex offenders in Los Angeles, California. With the implementation of the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, [1] all 50 states must establish sex offender registries. [2] While California has had sex registration laws in effect since the 1940s and, as a result, has documented over 84,000 convicted sex offenders, the act elevated the penalty for failing to register as a sex offender to a felony, making punishment for this crime more severe. Moreover,, if the previous sex crime was a felony, the subsequent failure to register became a felony with a mandated prison term. [3]

California courts consistently have upheld the concept that sex offender registration promotes the state's interest in controlling crime and preventing recidivism in sex offenders. [4] They also hold the opinion that sex offenders pose a continuing threat to society and require constant vigilance. [5] The California State Legislature, in enacting Penal Code Section 290, found and declared that "sex offenders pose a high risk of engaging in further offenses after release from incarceration or commitment, and protection of the public from these offenders is a paramount public interest." [6]

Sex offender registration provides law enforcement with a unique means of determining an offender's activities and whereabouts. No other type of criminal must appear at the local police station and provide detailed information about their residence and work addresses, type of cars they drive, or other personal identifiers. California law requires that sex offenders give this information to law enforcement within 5 working days of their move into, out of, or within each jurisdiction. Registrants also must update this information annually, within 5 working days of their date of birth. California law also requires that offenders who have convictions in other states for crimes registerable in California register upon relocating to California.

Although laws exist to require convicted sex offenders to register, many do not. The California Department of Justice estimates that over 5,000 convicted sex offenders have never registered. What can law enforcement do to combat this problem?

THE REACT APPROACH

To capitalize on the increase in punishment for failing to register as a sex offender and to use this mandatory registration as an effective crime prevention tool, the Los Angeles Police Department formed the Registration Enforcement and Compliance Team (REACT) in 1997 to monitor the over 8,000 registered sex offenders within its jurisdiction. [7] In addition, REACT investigates and presents for criminal filing cases of sex offenders who fail to comply with registration requirements. REACT units also gather information on sex offenders that often proves useful for other law enforcement entities. Specifically, REACT--

* compiles information on offenders' past crimes and modus operandi, thereby providing sexual assault detectives valuable leads in solving current sex crimes;

* records and investigates notifications of offenders moving into the Los Angeles area;

* notifies other law enforcement agencies when local offenders move to their areas and provides information on those offenders' criminal histories; and

* responds to citizen notifications of offenders not complying with registration requirements, which assures the public that the department continually monitors registered sex offenders within its boundaries, thereby reducing the fear of crime.

Working with Parole and Probation Departments

Increased monitoring of sex offenders fosters greater cooperation between law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies charged with supervising these individuals during probationary or parole terms. For example, periodic REACT-initiated contacts with subjects on parole for past sex crimes increase the number of unannounced checks and aid parole officers burdened with large caseloads. This additional monitoring often uncovers violations of release conditions and fulfills California appellate court decisions concerning the purpose of sex offender registration. [8]

Recent REACT contacts with parolees include a twice-convicted child molester, who targeted kindergarten-age girls. The parolee assured officers that he could manage his sexual attraction to children. Although he complied with registration requirements, REACT officers initiated surveillance due to the severity of his past crimes and propensity to re-offend. Within days, officers observed the parolee slowly driving by an elementary school playground. This violation of a parole condition prohibiting him from going near a school sent the parolee back to prison.

In addition, during a REACT field compliance check, officers discovered a parolee conversing online with a number of females, attempting to arrange meetings with them. He represented himself as a sports figure associated with a major league baseball team. This deceptive ploy proved similar to the events leading up to his last conviction for forcible rape. Although currently in compliance with registration requirements, the intentional misrepresentation of his occupation violated his parole conditions and resulted in his return to prison.

Partnering with Other Agencies

REACT also works closely with its counterpart in the California Department of Justice, the Sexual Predator Apprehension Team (SPAT). This team accompanies REACT units in periodic field compliance checks of the addresses of registered sex offenders. While ensuring compliance with sex offender registration requirements, such field enforcement efforts also illustrate to sex offenders the deep commitment that the law enforcement community has to devoting additional attention to them and their activities.

Cooperative efforts with other agencies also leads to finding unregistered sex offenders. REACT units encounter these "slip through" individuals on a regular basis. Because it takes significant investigative work to collect evidence that proves offenders were convicted originally of a registerable offense and knew of the registration requirement, REACT officers depend on the cooperation of many members of the criminal justice profession.

REACT officers often must examine various sources, such as court records, parole and probation reports, and the sex offender registries of other law enforcement agencies, to document the offenders' knowledge of registration requirements. Material that reveals an acknowledgment of specific requirements can include court records from the original sex crime conviction, paperwork maintained by correctional institutions, or formal registration requirement notices signed by offenders at the conclusion of court proceedings or prior to their release from incarceration. Thorough investigative efforts pay off when officers bring previously unknown offenders into compliance through updated registration. Additionally, law enforcement and the community it serves benefit from knowing the location and activities of convicted sex offenders.

In a recent REACT-initiated case involving a convicted child molester from another state, the offender, knowingly in violation of probation conditions that prohibited him from residing in the same household with a female juvenile, fled his home state and brought the child with him to California. The investigation by the REACT unit proved that he knew he had to register in California. After completing a California prison sentence, he will return to his home state to face the probation violation.

CONCLUSION

Sex offender registration provides valuable information for law enforcement agencies. The monitoring of sex offenders combined with enforcing registration requirements provides agencies with an extremely useful tool for protecting the public from recidivist sex offenders. To fully capitalize on this helpful instrument, agencies must update and verify sex offender registries on a continuing basis.

The Los Angeles Police Department created the Registration Enforcement and Compliance Team to detect and monitor convicted sex offenders who reside within its jurisdiction. The REACT units have shown how law enforcement, working in conjunction with other criminal justice agencies, can keep convicted sex offenders from preying on unsuspecting victims.

Chief Parks leads the Los Angeles, California, Police Department. Detective Webb serves with the Los Angeles, California, Police Department and supervises the REACT program in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.

Endnotes

(1.) 42 U.S.C. 14071.

(2.) For additional information, see Alan D. Scholle, "Sex Offender Registration: Community Notification Laws," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, July 2000, 17-24.

(3.) California's "three strikes" provisions allow for the doubling of the 16-month, 2- or 3-year sentences for failure to register. With a third serious felony conviction, hence the "three strikes," the offender who fails to register with local law enforcement can receive a sentence of 25 years to life.

(4.) People v. Monroe, 168 Cal. App. 3d. 1205, 1215:215 Cal Rptr. 51 (1985).

(5.) People v. Castellanos 21 Cal. 4th 785 (1999).

(6.) Preamble to Penal Code Section 290, uncodified.

(7.) The Los Angeles Police Department created REACT following a training seminar conducted by the California Department of Justice regarding field compliance checks of convicted sex offenders. The police department formed the units from existing personnel and resources.

(8.) According to the California Penal Code, "the purpose of Section 290 (sex offender registration) is to assure that persons convicted of the crimes enumerated therein shall be readily available for police surveillance at all times because the legislature deemed them likely to commit similar offenses in the future." See, e.g., Barrows v. Municipal Court, 1 Cal 3d. 821, 825 (1970).

A high-risk sex offender, previously convicted of child molestation and forcible rape, has additional child molestation charges against him dismissed when a new victim refuses to testify.

An admitted pedophile's residence overlooks a playground, and neighbors report that he often sits in his parked vehicle, partially obscured by tinted windows, and watches local children playing nearby.

Officers observe a convicted sex offender trying the doorknobs of residences in a local neighborhood.
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Author:Webb, Diane
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:1532
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