Thursday, January 8, 2009

Call me!

After writing my post yesterday, I was reading my email in the living room and came across a message sent by a Lincoln resident who was a little upset to learn that a neighbor had been arrested and convicted of sexual assault. Here's an excerpt:

"We just knew he had not been seen in awhile. Only after I did not see him around Christmas time did I start to ask questions. I was amazed to find the information I needed a year ago on the Nebraska Department of Corrections Inmate locator search engine"
The author was a bit unhappy that for a year between the arrest and conviction, this man, who appeared to be a respectable long-time resident of the neighborhood, had gone about his merry way without anyone knowing that he was awaiting trail for a felony sex crime. He was suggesting that we borrow the same technology used by Lincoln Public School's automatic dialing system to phone parents and advise them of people in the district who have been arrested or convicted of sex crimes.

I can just imagine the legal counsel's reaction to that one. I emailed him back, and told him I understood his shock and concern, but that in a I can't imagine we would really want the police, in a democratic society, making phone calls to an entire elementary school attendance district to let people know about the arrest of a citizen--especially when he or she has not been convicted. The concept that a person is innocent until proven guilty is fundamental to our system of justice.

I also provided him with some information about the Nebraska State Patrol's sex offender registry, since this man will be required to register upon his release. I also gave him some information about the fabulous VINE website, where he could sign up for an automated notification by either phone or email anytime the subject's custody status changes.

The conversation got me thinking, though, about post-release sex offender notification. For the general public, the method of finding out that the new neighbor is a registered sex offender is to check. You can look up your zip code area on the State Patrol's website, check a specific name, or keep your eye peeled for the fine print notices published from time to time in the local newspaper. I suspect that not many people do that, though. It's a "pull" process of going out and fetching information that you may not even know you want in the first place.

There is, as my correspondent suggested, another way: that information could be pushed out, either to people who register one time (like VINE) or when triggered by a geographic query (like our Crime Alerts through crimemapping.com). Florida does just that. I'm not necessarily advocating this. I have a few concerns that give me pause, one of which about the quality of geocoding sex offenders. The process of computer matching addresses to maps is something I am intimately familiar with, and even with excellent quality data (like our crime data) there is a certain level of error inherent in the process. Nonetheless, the technology is pretty straightforward, and we use it extensively in-house to push various kinds of notifications and alerts to commanders.

14 comments:

Doublebanker said...

I agree..it is innocent until proved guilty, not the other way around. Now if an organization other than the police wanted to notify those in the area of someone arrested, thats a different story.

More of a crime watch organization instead.

Buck said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the Nebraska State Patrol website only show the highest-level sex offenders?

Anonymous said...

The concept of "innocent until proved guilty" has been shown to be correct in acquittals in several high profile cases recently. When an innocent person is charged with a heinous crime even if they are proven innocent a stigma will always remain.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

I blame the media for most of the stigma that follows an aquittal.
To many people believe that if your newsman says something then it is true.
They're just out to make headlines. Meanwhile it hurts others.

Anonymous said...

All I want to know is when ex-cons with prior felony convictions for burglary, auto theft, robbery, etc move into my neighborhood, and that includes older juveniles that get out of juvie jail and move back with their parents.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this posting in the blog. Much more then all of you will know... I have contacted Appriss to see what I can do to help facilitate such a website as Florida's. I have offered to host the site and do what ever is needed to assist in the geo-codeing with a map of at least the city to start...

This was such a startling event in our neighborhood. It has kept me up a few nights wondering how this could have happened. I trusted this person more then anybody I have ever known. For petes sake he had a key to my home....

I can only hope that I can drum up the support from other like minded folks who have contacts with companies who can help finance or write the needed grant material or even goto the legislature for assistance... I am sure the formalities can be worked out, we just have to get our foot in the front door.

Mr. Casady: thanks for the information you gave and rest assusred, no vigilanty here. Just a plain ole daddy wanting to keep his daughter safe...

Scanner Listener...

oop's I gave my self away!

Anonymous said...

Are we talking about a predator or violent type here, or something that's gone badly wrong in a family, or ?? If we're talking about the former charges, somebody probably needs to do some notifying or other protective care. With the latter type, especially if treatment is happening, it doesn't seem like that normally represents serious danger to the community plus this can make a nightmare tragedy even worse for everyone already hurting so badly. Lots of stories out there on that. Isn't that why Nebraska law makes a distinction? The police and press should, too.

Anonymous said...

I really agree with being notified about repeat burglary, auto theft, robbery, etc. offenders who move into my neighborhood ... or those who have any serious repeat violence whatever the motive. This info might actually be more usable.

Anonymous said...

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,479045,00.html

Best to go down with the ship.

Anonymous said...

I did have the bank call once they got an oK!

Anonymous said...

There is a huge difference between what most would classify as a "violent offender" and some other sex offenders. Sex offense can sometimes be a broad generalizaton. It could involve anything from a consentual relationship between a 19 year old and a 15 year old (illegal still, yes, but hardly "violent") to a person convicted of child sexual assault. To have "notifications" of sex offenders may cause some confusion. While I, like the rest of you, want to keep my children safe, I won't jump to any conclusions without further research. And yes, the public NSP sex offender website: http://www.nsp.state.ne.us/sor/find.cfm
does only show High Risk/Level 3 offenders. Only law enforcement have access to lower level offender info.

Lorimor said...

"The concept that a person is innocent until proven guilty is fundamental to our system of justice."

Another reason why I think the opponents of CCW really need to rethink their position on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Tbe fact that someone was acquitted doesn't necessarily mean they didn't commit the crime. Lack of, or bungling of the evidence, plea bargaining, or biased juries (OJ, for example) are just a few of the reasons one might get off despite being guilty as Hell. Still, I don't think it is the duty of justice system or police to "warn" the public about someone who "might" be guilty of a crime. Yet, I seem to recall a time a year or so ago when the Chief was quoted in the media warning the public about someone he felt was a threat to the community because of past offenses for which the person had already served time and had no charges pending against him. That had to be a tough call for the chief, and I don't necessarily think he was wrong. At least, his intentions were good.

Anonymous said...

Our laws are setup to be to say innocent until proven guilty. This is not at all how the syste is set up. Its a disguise. You really guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Examples- Jailed before trial, bonds, plea bargain ect. If yu wer truly innocent until proven guilty, then we wouldnt need theese to force people into pleading guilty so we dont charge them with a higher crime. Plea bargain is a joke made to make courts more stream line. If the person is truly guilty, then prove it in court. So many times the jail system and plea bargains are for prosecutors that do not have the evidance to convict someone so throw everything in the back at you to see what sticks. The legal system in this country is a laughing joke. More times than not, if u have a badge, you are above the law. this has been seen time and time again. Polise officers have a tough job, no doubt but most times they make a small problem into a big problem because of out of control officers who do not know how to dael with the general public. I have the badge I make the law mentallity. I have seen officers that are worst than the people they are arresting. Stop bad cops, even when caught on video, they go free and continue thier out of control riegn on the general public. Who polices the police. Oh I forgot, the good ole boy foundation. What a JOKE