Friday, February 26, 2010

What now?

Since yesterday's post about the Journal Star's sex offender map seems to have stimulated a fair amount of comment and an interesting dialog with sex offenders looking for a debate, I've decided to wade in even further. So, you've got a sex offender in your neighborhood, what now? I don't know what to tell you. There is a huge difference among offenders. Some aren't much of a risk at all, others are very, very worrisome. As I've often said, in my job you have to know a lot of stuff that you'd rather not know.

Not really, though. As uncomfortable as it may be, I really do want to know whether the seemingly-nice guy that is actually a sex offender is really creepy, or whether he just did something slightly creepy once, but doesn't represent a risk to others anymore. I usually know such things, because I swim in this information soup, but the general public is left to guess. I suppose you should err on the side of caution. You might look for details of the crime in the online news archives, but that's pretty hit-and-miss. You might meet the offender on your block and just ask him: just keep in mind that it is human nature for people to blame others for their misdeeds, and to paint their own conduct in the most favorable light, even if they fess up to it. Bottom dollar is that it is going to be difficult to make your own determination, unless you're willing to go to courthouse and find the trial transcripts and court documents.

Earlier this year, a friend emailed me after learning that a sex offender was moving into a residence on his block. This offender is one of the scary ones--multiple convictions in multiple jurisdictions, volatile behavior, jammed his time. Reading the reports made me cringe. I don't have a pamphlet or a PowerPoint for this circumstance, so here's the advice I gave him:

"His pattern in Lincoln has been to befriend young teenagers, primarily boys, and ply them with alcohol and pornography. I think he represents a significant risk. If he lived in my neighborhood, I would:

1. Familiarize myself with his current appearance.
2. Check the sex offender registry regularly for any address change.
3. Call the police immediately if I noticed him apparently residing at a place other than the address listed on the registry.
4. Familiarize myself with the vehicles at his address that he might drive.
5. Make sure all of my family members have seen his photograph and are also familiar with the cars he drives.
6. Warn all my family members to avoid him at all times.
7. Provide this same information to my neighbors.
8. Be watchful for any evidence of young people going into his house or hanging out with him, and report any such observations to the police.
9. Stay away from him.
10 Avoid any contact, confrontation,or conversation."

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

You forgot #11. "Grab your torches and pitchforks".

JIM J said...

There are many parents that let their kids hang out at the "nice man's house" down the street. The "nice man" hangs with no one else except young kids. Even an idiot could figure this one out. PARENTS: If your kids are hanging with an older man or older women who has no intrest or appears to have few if any adult friends, something is going on.
SLEEP OVERS: Why is the youth pastor, mentor, coach, to name a few, having sleep overs? Why would a parent let a child participate in such a situation.
EMPLOYERS: You have money,SPEND IT.
Most of the Lincoln tax payers would welcome an increase in tax if it means you have TWO adults with a child or children. You do not have enough help? B.S.. There are people who would work for FREE if it means protecting a child from a life wrecking encounter with a trusted adult. You trust your employee so you do not need two people?
Try explaining that to the child who is molested. Managers and others in charge of our kids really make me sick to think they are so uncaring about our kids, they repeat the above excuses time and time again. What do they need for a wake up?

Anonymous said...

Chief-I agree that there are various degrees of offenses.If I was aware of an offender like the one you described, I would probably stop by his place and introduce myself and generally let him/her know that I was aware of their issues, and that we would be watching and aware of what went on at their place. These cretins rely on secrecy to carry out their deeds. If they feel they have no secrecy, I think that changes the game.

While I have several Jack Bauer/Steven Seagal fantasies that suggest other methods, I believe in the old method of keeping your friends close and keeping you enemies closer......

256

Jeremy said...

I agree that your list should be used on someone as dangerous as this persons record claims he is. But, lets just hope the general public doesn't treat all RSO's this way, because not all of them deserved to be treated that way.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

No need to worry about my house.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

About LFA B0-017741, were there any "locking" lug nuts holding those wheels on?

If not, a set of 4 is about 20 bucks. They won't make your wheels 100% theft-proof (no such thing), but they do present a hassle, and might make the crook move on to another target without any locking lugs. In any case, it seems like an easy value-added item to push, if you're in wheel/tire sales.

Tom Casady said...

1:29-

Apparently not!

Trevor Brass said...

Jeez, are there any female sex offenders out there? Why is it always men, are we just more base and stupid?

Tom Casady said...

Trevor Brass-

Good question. Quick answer: of the 549 registered sex offenders with Lincoln addreses, 20 are female--3.6% .

Anonymous said...

I am amused by how you (and others like Mr. Bruning) so casually lob the "it's all public record anyway" platitude out there.

If there are 10000 people in my zip code, I would have to do a public records search on every single one of them in order to accomplish what the State Patrol web site does for me in seconds.

If someone you have known for years has never given you any reason to believe he is a threat, why would you bother checking? Instead, however, the SOR makes people automatically think that a person is a threat simply by the fact that they are on there. In fact, if I may quote directly from the State Patrol's SOR page:

"Nebraska State Statute 29-4002 declares that sex offenders present a high risk to commit repeat offenses...

This information is to be used to provide public notice and information about a registrant so a community can develop constructive plans to prepare themselves and their family."


Sure does sound like they are implying that a person is dangerous. Often, no one in law enforcement, the legislature, or the AG's office have even met this person or studied the details of his behavior. And yet they are quite comfortable with telling the community, "this person right here... who you never cared about before... this person is dangerous. Prepare yourselves!"

Don't give me this "it's all public record" business. You're the one pointing the finger at a person that may never have needed to be identified for any reason.

Tom Casady said...

4:07-

"Nebraska State Statute 29-4002 declares that sex offenders present a high risk to commit repeat offenses..."

If you don't like the language, Talk to your state senator, friend. The wording in the statute wasn't put there by the State Patrol, now, was it?

I could have published an interactive public mapping application of registered sex offenders in Lincoln 12 years ago, if we had been so inclined. We've been doing it for our own internal use since 1998, and we were maintaining public-facing crime mapping applications on the Internet way back then, too.

And if you think no one would be looking were it not for the legislature creating the sex offender registry back in 1997, I think you are wrong. People are looking alot. You'd be quite surprised at the number of employers, recruiters, volunteer coordinators, landlords, parents, and so forth that actually do just what you think they don't: they use the public record information to check people out in a variety of circumstances without being spoon-fed. There was quite a hue and cry around Lincoln when the County Attorney's case information site went dark for a few days. We sell thousands of LPD criminal histories online, too. I can only imagine how many hits that site would get if it were free. I also have heard a lot of anecdotal evidence about the general public using the Department of Corrections inmate locator to gather criminal history information on people who have served prison terms. I'm sometimes amazed at the information you can get with a simple Google search.

There are several for-profit operations that have learned how to make public record requests, obtain public datasets, and map things as mundane as people who have received traffic tickets along with parolees, released offenders, and registered sex offenders. Some of these have created apps that are better than the data the police had in their own systems.

Unless you declared arrest and conviction records to no longer be a public record, I can assure you some of these entrepreneurs would be operating their own sex offender websites by gathering that information and creating web apps. If the field wasn't already effectively occupied by the State of Nebraska, they would be doing just that right now. It would be very easy to do, you could charge a small subscription fee, and make a killing.

There are many examples already where non-governmental organizations are obtaining public records data and building some very sophisticated applications that liberate the data from it's obscurity.

Blame me all you want, but I had nothing to do with that, and you're just going to have to live with the fact that your secret isn't so secret anymore, and the cat cannot be stuffed back into the bag.

Anonymous said...

The only way you can look up public records by name easily is if the person owns their residence. Otherwise, law enforcement agencies are the only ones who can easily find out who probably lives in that rental unit. As I've written before, I don't give a toss about knowing where SOs live, because they're no discernible threat to me. Unless I somehow commit a felony, wind up in prison, and get gang-raped by 3 or 4 big guys, I'm just not at risk of SO victimization.

However, I'd really like to know where those with burglary and larceny convictions live and move, and former robbers would be useful too.

Anonymous said...

As long as a lot of others appear to be climbing on your case... You wouldn't really stuff a cat into a bag, would you...? If so, would that make you a CS (cat stuffer)? LOL

Anonymous said...

You ever wonder what would happen to guys like this in the "old days"? You know how the family, including Dad, Uncles, Brothers and supporting neighbors would resolve such a situation.

http://www.northplattebulletin.com/index.asp?show=news&action=readStory&storyID=18350&pageID=3

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a small farm community. A lot of pressure was put on us kids to toe the line. A simple thing like spitting on the sidewalk or throwing a rock in the direction of a house would result in a call to your parents by an adult. You might think you got away with something until you got home and then you would find out your parents had received a phone call from a witness and you knew your Dad (and sometimes Mom) was going to blister your butt. The humiliation of having your "sins" aired in public kept adults and kids both in line. The only way to avoid that humiliation is to not indulge in certain behaviors. Fifty years ago it was the party telephone line that ratted you out, now it is the Internet and Public Records.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

What idiots had TWO games and created the traffic mess at Lincoln Race Course.

Anonymous said...

Nebraska plate OYA 170 . Is a red suv...(jeep?) any way this person has the boom box blasting at a loud level, so much it rattles the windows when driving by, about 20th Superior and Mark IV area, also, a few days ago.. I saw him tipping a beer as he passed 20 and Benton..Thought you could keep an ear out..He is an after midnight annoyance.

Eric Knight said...

Chief,

As the media liaison for the largest sex offender issue-oriented organization in the United States, I have to say that your advice should be recommended for ALL "creepy looking" individuals, not just those on a publicly-accessible Internet registry. But really, this has nothing to do at all with the existence of a registry. If the man is creepy, then your parental antenna should be up and about anyway.

The problem is that the public registry, or any registry, provides a damning permanent snapshot of an individual that has been horribly taken out of its original intent: to provide information on DANGEROUS individuals on a case by case, selective basis. Instead, the first reaction of any normal person, when he or she find out that someone is on the registry, is to IMMEDIATELY compare that person with the victim of a child rapist-MURDERER (Megan's Law, Jessica's Law, etc.), not "just a molester." Yes, child molestation and abuse is tragic, and must be accounted for, but in its entirety, not just at the prosecutorial level.

In fact, over 95% on the Internet registry will never commit another sex offense. (Technical violations, or non-sex offense misdemeanors or felonies do not count). Now, even the 5% figure varies widely among the different types of offenders, as Chief Cassidy can obviously break down with his excellent department metrics. Simply put, though, 19 out of 20 registered sex offenders, once registered, will never commit another sex offense per Department of Justice calculations. Most of them are as "normal" as you or me at this time, based on their actions, not just their intent.

In fact, Chief, this figure blatatly discredits the "declaration" by "Nebraska State Statute 29-4002" that "sex offenders present a high risk to commit repeat offenses." That is an outright lie.

(We are compiling a state-by-state figure, and will also include rates based on actual offenses. Our preliminary figures have shown that only 2% recommit another offense on average...still high, but even then the predicators are easily identifiable at the professional level.)

We have had to deal with over 20 registered offenders' situations in Nebraska since the decision to show Level 2's on the grid (over 10 in Omaha alone). Many have been kicked out of their apartments or leases, along with their families, or lost their jobs. Now most of you may not have one whit of sorrow for the RSO's, which is understandable from an emotional standpoint, but this does not make Chief Cassidy's job of monitoring the truly dangerous individual any easier.

Until we get a handle on the entire spectrum of sex offender issues, from prevention, through proper prosecution in the judicial system, and successful community reintegration following the sentence, then this issue will never be resolved, and Chief Cassidy will have the sad and unfortunate task of arresting several first time sex offenders, due to an unnatural dependence on publicly identifying, and yes, shaming offenders and their families.

Finally... our organization is not offender-centric, but constitutional-centric. This means that community safety and prosperity is our main goal. Our members encompass everyone from law enforcement professionals (many who will gladly provide their references to interested parties), legal professionals, medical and mental health technicians, academicians, victims, and family members of registered sex offenders.

Yes, there are bad creatures out there, some on the registry. And any individual on the sex offender registry who reoffends with another sex offense have no part in our organization, nor in free society. Finally, anyone who hurts anyone physically, or mentally over a long period of time, should never see the light of day outside of prison ever again. But those are obvious extremes that need to be watched, and not the rank and file sex offender why, by and large, never commit another crime once they are caught.

Tom Casady said...

Mr. Knight:

You can call me Casady. Two percent?. Let's see that research in a peer-reviewed journal. Give me the citation to the Department of Justice data you refer to, and if it exists, I'll certainly take a look and render my own review of the methodology to my readers and provide them with a link to the source. Can you tell I'm skeptical?

If you are really going to argue that the vast (95%) of sex offenders represent no risk to others, why would you exclude from consideration the other misdemeanors and felonies they committ? My experience (and my data) would show that for most of registered sex offenders, the sex crime that landed them on the registry is just one offense from a broader pattern of criminal conduct.

It is noteworthy that over half (297 of 544) of Lincoln's registered sex offenders graded out as Level 3--at high risk to reoffend--when Nebraska was using exactly the kind of risk assessment process you are advocating. One of the major components of the risk assessment was the offender's criminal past. Anecdotally, I just pulled up the first 10 sex offenders in my table, and most people would be shocked at the panoply of their criminality--with two exceptions that were pretty quiet except for their sex offense.

You're right: I have the data. For registered sex offenders whose convicitons were here in Lancaster County, we could produce a rap sheet on most that would cause most people to cringe.

True, there are people in Lincoln on the registry who little in their past that would predict risk (68 out of 544 were classified as Level 1--low risk--prior to the change in the law), but it is disingenuous of you to represent this as the norm, as if 95% of the RSOs are fine citizens that you'd be happy to have driving a school bus.

The bottom dollar is this: the legislature, spurred by the Congress, has decided that information about all the offenders who have committed registerable offenses should be public.

Even if the legislature had not done so, rapid changes in technology probably made wider public disclosure inevitable. Read my previous comment in this thread. Read my post today, March 1.

To repeat, the cat is out of the bag and cannot be stuffed back in. Maybe when court records are more accessible, people will be able to make their own more informed judgements about individual offenders. That ought to help the occasional offender whose crime wasn't as bad as the label makes it seem.

Tom Casady said...

SOIssues-

I keep saying this, and you can't ignore it: The cat is out of the bag. You can't stuff it back in. Even if sex offender registration laws were rescinded tomorrow, the private sector web developers would be all over the States with FOIA demands for sex offender information, and creating their own for profit web applications. The day is gone where someone with a criminal past for a serious crime can hide that fact effectively. I have a private for profit web application bookmarked that actually maps the addresses of people who have received SPEEDING TICKETS, among others! Have you seen Tampa Bay mugshots? Perfect example of a news organization doing just this with public record mug shots turned into a groovy web app.

The Fallen One said...

Mr. Casady,

I am appalled you would encourage the use of name-and-shame sites like the Tampa Bay site you posted.

Our culture is filled with Predator Panic, and of course, members of law enforcement do not help matters by encouraging a social panic of epidemic proportions. In this article, you admit some on the list simply make a dumb mistake which lands them on a public pillory for life. That doesn't include the influx of consensual teen sex and sexting cases blasted in the news as of late.

Based on the high level of vigilantism and social ostracism out there, it is evident John Q. Public doesn't know how to decipher threats by use of public records. Nor can it tell you who is a threat in the 87-95% of sex crime cases because they are committed by first time offenders.

http://www.oncefallen.com/registriesrevisited.html

The registries are worthless unless you are a vigilante... or a member of law enforcement. It is no secret that states are compelled by federal law to maintain a public pillory or face major cuts in JAG/ Byrne Grants.

"Erring on the side of caution" has led to disastrous consequences that far outweigh the false sense of security obtained by it. Promoting stereotypes and vigilantism has not made a dent in sex crime rates.

There are many myths that still have yet to be dispelled.

http://www.oncefallen.com/SOMyths.html
[you'll find the study that listed a 2% reoffense rate from a 10 year Michigan survey, by the way]

and

http://www.oncefallen.com/Recidivism101.html

The bottom line is that our approach is faulty. Focusing on a smaller segment of offenders, the majority of which are not out committing new crimes (unless you count the harassing arrests by overzealous registry compliance checkers), detracts from the larger issue. Furthermore, it stymies rehabilitation efforts. Failure for released offenders of any type that cannot get housing, employment, support, and treatment upon release will be more likely to re-offend. That is what law enforcement fails to mention when they speak of re-arrest records.

By the way, the person most likely to abuse a child is the one closest to them.

Grundle King said...

How timely...

Kansas sex offender accused in Nebraska assault

If convicted, this would be his third such conviction. Perhaps if the parents would have paid closer attention to resources like the SOR, this would have been averted.

All this talk of recidivism rates got me thinking...what crimes are folks like 'SOIissues', Eric Knight, and Anon 4:07 comparing sex offenses to? I saw murder thrown out there...but what else? I'm guessing the majority of crimes they're comparing the recidivism rates to are property crimes...crimes where the things that were taken away or destroyed can be replaced by insurance or restitution.

But how do you give back a 10 year-old girl's innocence? How do you restore a victim's brain to the state it existed in prior to a sexual assault? You can't. Therefore, you can't compare those other criminals to sexual offenders...because their crimes are nowhere close to comparable.

But if someone wants to start an online database of people who are arrested for assault, burglary, or any other of the litany of crimes that are associated with recidivism rates, then please do. I'd love to see more people have their names and faces put out there for all to see, so people know that the guy across the street may steal your car, or the neighbor's kid who may shoot out your windows. Go for it!

Ben said...

Actually, I think suiciders are the least likely to re-offend :).

Don't forget about the site http://www.crimemapping.com/ that you mentioned a while back!

Grundle King said...

Sorry 'Fallen One' aka Derek Logue, I have a hard time taking you seriously when you display an upside-down picture of the American flag as some sort of indication that our country is in distress.

The fact that sites exist that are sympathetic to sex offenders indicates to me that our country is, indeed, in distress.

You wrote, "By the way, the person most likely to abuse a child is the one closest to them."

So, let me ask then, was the 11 year-old girl you kissed as a 23 year-old close to you? And how does operating a site that offers support and resources to sex offenders pay 'penance' to the victim?