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

Article excerpt

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. …