Records Staff Tracks Sex Offenders
After a Florida girl was sexually assaulted and killed by her neighbor – a convicted sex offender – many states adopted a law to protect communities and reduce sex offenders’ ability to re-offend. Known as Jessica’s Law, this law works to ensure accurate registration of convicted sex offenders.
The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office in Wyoming, along with the U.S. Marshal’s Service, participate in what they called ‘Operation Jessica’ to ensure that all 365+ registered sex offenders in the county are properly registered.
Each year, deputies and police officers within the county have a specific timeframe where they collect packets of information detailing the names and addresses of registered sex offenders. These law enforcement officers are then tasked with going to the residences and ensuring that registration is up to date for all offenders.
With Laramie County being more than 2,000 square miles in size, law enforcement officers work with civilian staff in the agency’s records department to fairly distribute the workload by group.
“With our software, we use mapping capabilities so that we can group certain areas together,” records specialist Susan Gensel said. “That way we don’t give one group of officers 50 individuals to check and another group 10 individuals to check. It helps make the process more manageable.”
Throughout this process, law enforcement officers are required to ascertain if the individuals really live at the address they have listed, have a job, drive a vehicle, and adhere to the specifications of the sex offender registry.
“Every year when we do this we make arrests,” Gensel said. “These compliance checks make sure that registered sex offenders are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and if they’re not, then we know and can make arrests.”
Keeping Track of Career Criminals
Records involving registered sex offenders are permanent, which means they stay in a public safety agency’s system regardless of if the offender’s case is active or inactive, or if the offender is deceased.
This amount of information must be stored and searchable, so civilian staff can let law enforcement officers know if an offender is overdue for registration or has otherwise violated terms of his or her sentence and requirements.
According to Gensel, what makes this process easier for them in Laramie County is the fact that their law enforcement records management solution will alert them if someone is due to register or update a file. This helps staff issue warrants and send general alerts, allowing officers in the field access to this information.
In addition, the system allows for the documentation of any scars, marks, or tattoos, which is especially beneficial in identifying individuals. This labels what the scar, mark, or tattoo is, where it is located on the body, and it’s updated by date to reflect any new scars, marks, or tattoos.
“We’ve been able to positively identify a suspect with this feature,” Gensel said. “He was being really uncooperative, but we searched his tattoo and came up with a positive identification on him.”
Before using a system with these robust tracking, alerting, and identification capabilities, records specialists were required to put manual alerts on printed files to track offenders. These files had six different alert codes, which created a cumbersome workload for staff.
Automating the system made it possible for records personnel to go directly to career criminal files, double tap any of them, and immediately see the status. Now, records personnel use data analysis capabilities in the system to see any new warrants or updates.
These updates can include whether or not a register sex offender has been incarcerated, is added to a watch list, or if the offender is known to be violent. All of these capabilities benefit officers in the field.
“Officers in the field see just about as much as we do,” Gensel said. “They can see their offenses, any other charges or convictions, and they see alerts as well.”