Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WA - What good is tracking criminals with GPS tools?

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I have said it over and over, and so has many other people, that GPS is a waste of tax payer money, and does nothing to deter or prevent crimes.  If a person is intent on committing a crime, or pushed to the fringes of society, then they will commit a crime, just like this man did.  And now, another child is dead, and did GPS or anything about the sex offender laws prevent this?  Nope!


By Keith Eldridge & KOMO Staff

SEATTLE -- The alleged murder of a girl by a transient sex offender wearing a GPS device is raising questions about the effectiveness of the tracking strategy.

GPS is a tracking tool, not something that can stop criminals in the act, law enforcement officials said.

Darrin Sanford was one of the most closely-watched sex offenders. He had to check in with his community corrections officer every day and wear a GPS tracking device that mapped his every move.

Still, officials said, that didn't prevent him from allegedly attempting to rape then killing Alycia Nipp in Vancouver, Wash. Saturday night.

"I want him sentenced to death, honestly," said Nipp's aunt.

So, if Sanford was under Department of Corrections' supervision, why couldn't he be stopped?

The department said people have the misconception that GPS tracking is just like air traffic controllers -- crews monitoring screens and keeping people safe. Not so, says Armando Mendoza, regional administrator of the Department of Corrections.

"I do think that most people, the general public thinks were are watching them 24/7 in real-time. We just don't have the manpower to do anything like that," he said.

And having someone watching the tracker around the clock wouldn't prevent crimes either, investigators said.

A GPS tracking map shows green dots and arrows that indicate where the sex offender is and where he has been. The offender himself is not seen and therefore, authorities have no way of knowing whether he is committing a crime at any given moment.

Investigators said that's why Sanford could not be stopped.

"Even if we had been having someone watching his track real-time, they would not have known that he was engaged in any kind of criminal behavior," said Don Pierce of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The GPS device didn't prevent the crime, but police said it did help solve it. Sanford was initially let go after questioning.

"They asked me a few questions because of my past criminal history," he said in a previous interview.

But when corrections officers pulled up the tracking map, they saw that it put Sanford at the scene of the crime. Investigators confronted him with that information, and that's when he allegedly confessed.

Statewide, 120 sex offenders wear the GPS device. Most are homeless and the others are high-level offenders just released from prison.

OH - Office of the Ohio Public Defender Policy on Reimbursing Counties for Representation of Indigent Persons at Hearings Pursuant to R.C. 2950.031(E), R.C. 2950.032(E), and R.C. 2950.11(F)(2)

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Because the retroactive application of the sex offender registration and notification provisions in Ohio Senate Bill 10 constitutes an additional penalty and loss of liberty for a previously-adjudicated criminal or delinquent act, and because the hearings to contest reclassification under the bill are criminal proceedings, indigent persons are entitled to representation by appointed counsel to challenge their retroactive reclassification under the bill, as they are in any other criminal proceeding. This applies equally to those challenging their reclassification or community notification requirements in either the general division of common pleas court or juvenile court.

Accordingly, the Office of the Ohio Public Defender will reimburse counties for counsel appointed to represent indigent persons in hearings pursuant to R.C. 2950.031(E), R.C. 2950.032(E), and R.C. 2950.11(F)(2). All administrative rules governing reimbursement apply, and all required documentation must be properly and timely submitted, including a notice of appointment, an affidavit of indigency, a financial disclosure form (OPD-206R), and an attorney fee application (OPD-1026R).

This policy remains in effect until further notice.

NY - Update on East Rochester sex offender law

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Village lawmakers say it's a safety precaution but is a new law restricting sex offenders in East Rochester from living in certain areas legal?

The goal is to make the community safer but a new law banning registered sex offenders from certain neighborhoods is coming under fire. The New York Chapter of the Civil Liberties Union says the law is unfair.

The village of East Rochester passed a law banning convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, community and rec centers, playgrounds and parks and daycare centers.

Similar laws in at least two other counties in New York State have been struck down but East Rochester thinks it's legal and its right. Village Administrator Martin D'Ambrose said, "In a village like East Rochester we have a lot of kids who travel by means of foot, by bike and so we want to be sure that the areas that they're in are safe."
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"This is not a problem that local communities can address without creating a large mess." Pastor David Hess is a member of So-Hopeful New York. The group advocates for effective sex offender laws. He says residency requirements are counterproductive and ineffective.

Hess said, "You end up with a lot of former offenders who are homeless who fail to register because they can't find a legal place to live and there's just no way a bunch of homeless offenders who no longer will register, that does not make communities safer."

Gary Pudup is the director of New York's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He says, "In this particular case you have four people who have paid their debt to society, who haven't committed any more crimes are suspect of nothing and they're being forced to leave their homes and there's something fundamentally wrong with that. And it should strike us as Americans and New Yorkers as just being unfair."

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 93-percent of sex crimes against children are committed by family members and friends, not strangers.

New York State's residency requirements for convicted sex offenders require offenders on parole or probation from living within 1,000 feet of schools.

AL - Bill puts sting in sexual predator pursuit

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The Alabama House on Tuesday passed two bills aimed at making it easier for law enforcement officers to stop sexual predators who use computers or other electronic equipment to lure young victims.

The House voted 84-0 for a bill that states a person can be charged with using the computer to lure a child for the purpose of sexual relations, even if the victim is actually an undercover law enforcement officer.

The bill is aimed at stings where law enforcement officers pose as children or teenagers and agree to meet adults over the computer.

The sponsor, Rep. Steve McMillan (Email), R-Gulf Shores, said the bill would close a loophole that has caused charges to be dropped in some cases.

He said police in Gulf Shores conducted one such sting operation several years ago and arrested 23 suspects who tried to meet the "children" they had been communicating with on the computer.

But he said police found it was hard to prosecute some of the cases because of the loophole in the Alabama law.

He said in some cases, the suspects were charged with a federal law prohibiting an individual from crossing state lines for the purpose of having sexual relations with a child.

The House also voted 96-0 for a bill by Rep. Lea Fite, D-Jacksonville, that allows police to confiscate computers an other electronic equipment used to lure a child for sexual relations.

The bill excludes computers that belong to family members of the suspect as long as the family members did not know the suspect was trying to lure children for sexual relations.

WA - GPS corroborated WA sex offender's confession

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You see, this man, was monitored by GPS and a known sex offender, and this backs up what I have said for years now, if someone is intent on committing a crime, they will do so, regardless of how many laws are on the books, or how far the residency restrictions are. But don't punish all sex offenders due to a couple high profile cases committed by murderers. A majority are NOTHING like this man, yet the media and politicians continue to instill fear in everyone on lies and bogus statistics.


By GENE JOHNSON - AP Legal Affairs Writer

A GPS tracking unit that a homeless sex offender is required to wear corroborates his story that he killed a 13-year-old girl in a southwest Washington field, investigators said Tuesday.

SEATTLE - A GPS tracking unit that a homeless sex offender is required to wear corroborates his story that he killed a 13-year-old girl in a southwest Washington field, investigators said Tuesday.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Clark County Superior Court, Darrin Eugene Sanford was being monitored by the state Department of Corrections, and the ankle bracelet shows he was in the field, in Hazel Dell near Vancouver, when Alycia Nipp was killed Saturday night.

Detectives investigating the case identified Sanford, 30, based on descriptions provided by people who had seen him in the area. The affidavit says that when they questioned him, he confessed. He told detectives he met the girl near some vacant homes and walked with her into the field, where he tried to have sex with her.

"Sanford said that he wasn't able to complete the sexual act and after she 'giggled at him' that he was overcome with a violent rage," Detective Rick Buckner wrote in the affidavit.

The man didn't recall what he hit her with - a knife, stick or beer bottle. An autopsy determined she was stabbed to death.

Later that evening, Sanford moved the body to an area where the girl would be found, Buckner wrote.

Nipp was a seventh grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Vancouver, and was taking a shortcut across a vacant field in the Vancouver suburb Saturday night when she was accosted. She had been out walking the neighborhood with friends at the time.

Her mother reported her missing, and her stepfather found the body at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday. There were no apparent signs of sexual abuse.

Sanford, who is being held without bail for investigation of aggravated first-degree murder, made an initial court appearance Tuesday and was appointed an attorney, Michael Foister, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Sanford was arrested Monday after giving an interview to reporters in which he said he hadn't seen any suspicious activity in the area on Saturday.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor John Fairgrieve said he expected to file a formal charge Thursday.

Department of Corrections records show Sanford as a Level III sex offender - the category considered most likely to re-offend - and that in Clark County in 1998 he was convicted of luring and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.

He served about eight months for that offense, and was later arrested for failing to register as a sex offender - a crime that earned him 17 more months, said Armando Mendoza, the Corrections Department's southwest regional administrator.

He was released from the state prison at Walla Walla last July 31 and since then had been complying with requirements that he visit daily with his community corrections officer and pay court-ordered fines and fees, said Mendoza and Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis. He even checked in with his officer on Monday morning, before his arrest later that day.

He had passed his drug tests and there was no indication he had tried to tamper with his GPS ankle bracelet, they said. On Saturday, he visited his sister's house, where he wasn't supposed to go because children live there.

Not all sex offenders are on such monitoring, but they may be if they are homeless or unemployed, or if they've previously violated the conditions of their release. The Corrections Department does not have the manpower to monitor their locations in real time, but officers typically review the data the next business day.

"This is one of the ways GPS is supposed to work," Lewis said.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

Sex Offender Lives Here: The Perils of Wearing the 'Scarlet Letter' in an Instant-Access, Socially Networked World

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Everyone agrees that citizens should be protected from convicted and dangerous sex felons. But who will protect sex felons (both convicted or alleged) from the community? A new literary thriller from author Harry Ramble, Sex Offender Lives Here (, takes a sharp and insightful look at a hot-button issue that is disrupting communities across the nation--the registration and tracking of sex offenders--and places it in the context of a typical American family.

In 1994, when the first "Megan's Law" mandated the creation of a publicly accessible database for the tracking of convicted sex felons, the world was a very different place. There was no Google, no Facebook, no massive global interlinkage of RSS feeds and Twitter updates. In short, it wasn't possible to whip up an angry mob of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in mere moments.

Now all it takes is a few key taps. When an anonymous man was charged with setting wildfires that killed as many as 200 people in southern Australia, various media swiftly identified the alleged arson via his social-networking profile. Within hours, 4,000 people had joined a Facebook group named "Brendan Sokaluk, the Victorian Bushfires Arsonist, must burn in hell." Many thousands more posted threatening messages, while another group placed "$10,000 on Brendan Sokaluk's head." While his guilt or innocence, and his intentions, if any, are still to be determined, Sokaluk is being held by Australian authorities in a secret location, for his own safety.

Sex offenders are familiar with Sokaluk's plight. (Indeed, Sokaluk has also been charged with possessing child pornography.) Recently three teenage boys in Greensburg, PA were charged with possession of child pornography after friends of theirs, girls 14 and 15 years of age, sent them nude cellphone snapshots of themselves. This incident, part of a new phenomenon called "sexting," is greatly widening the scope and impact of current sex offender legislation. In this case, each teen faced the very real possibility of being branded sex offenders for life. Registered sex offender status has entirely predictable consequences on employability and quality of life, while incidents of stalking and vigilantism against registered sex felons have become increasingly commonplace in recent years.

It was exactly this highly charged atmosphere surrounding sex offender monitoring and punishment that intrigued Harry Ramble as he set out to write a different kind of sex offender thriller. That novel, Sex Offender Lives Here, now available from Ebb Press, has elicited strong--even angry--responses from readers.

"When people find out what Sex Offender Lives Here is about, usually the first thing they say is, well, who cares what happens to sex offenders? They've got it coming, right?" Ramble says. "People are conditioned to accept a single approach to the issue. For the most part, it's "Silence of the Lambs" stuff. Unspeakable evil. Sociopathic killing machines.

"Sometimes it seems there's a complete disconnect between the reality of who and what sex offenders are, and what we'd like them to be. We don't like to hear about shades of gray when it comes to something as viscerally disturbing as sex crimes. We want perpetrators to be irretrievably evil and we want to protect the children. We lock criminals up for a while and then we return them to society with big targets on their backs. Now don't get me wrong, some people should be targeted, identified, monitored. Some people are evil. But the system is so inflexible and one-size-fits-all."

Sex Offender Lives Here is a fictional account of a husband and father who is charged with a series of terrible crimes in the course of a hostile child custody case. Even as the father fights for possession of his son, his situation is publicized, resulting in unrest in his community. Soon activists, ideologues, and vigilantes on both sides of a cultural divide join the fray. With unnerving swiftness, the father finds himself at ground zero in a pitched battle between an agitated, frightened citizenry and a shadowy underground of deviants and criminals. Finally, the disappearance of a local 10-year-old girl triggers a final, deadly escalation of violence.

"The initial idea for Sex Offender Lives Here came from a story I read a few years ago," Harry Ramble says. "A 20-year-old dishwasher from Canada used the sex-registry system to track down and kill convicted felons in Maine. He killed two people. One was a 57-year-old man who had been convicted of assaulting and raping a child younger than 14 years old. The second was a 24-year-old man who had been convicted, when he was 19, of having sex with his girlfriend who, at the time, had been two weeks short of her 16th birthday. They were both sex offenders and they were both registered by name, address, and photo. The killer was found in possession of the addresses of 32 more sex offenders. You can talk all you want about who's got what coming, but this is the world we live in now. There's an inequity there.

"It's ironic," Ramble continues, "but there's a very peripheral character in the novel, a stereotypical sex fiend who exists outside the narrative and is kind of influencing public opinion around some of the main characters. And I can't tell you how many people say to me, why don't you write a book about that guy? Heck, they say, I'd read that. That fiend, a kind of supernatural fiend called the Balloon Man, represents how we like to think about sex felons."

Sex Offender Lives Here doesn't offer any solutions to the inequities in the sex offender registry system. Indeed, If anything, it represents a first tentative--and fictional--effort to arrive at a new way of speaking about the issues involved.

"I'm not an expert," Ramble says. "I'm a novelist. But it doesn't take an expert to recognize that we don't really have a coherent way of thinking or talking about sex offenses. I was listening to the radio the other day and the Attorney General of Connecticut was talking about sex offenders trolling social networks for kids. MySpace had just banned 90,000 registered sex offenders from its network.

"And the Attorney General said that for every identified sex offender, there could very well be hundreds of others out there right now, using fake names. And I'm thinking to myself, okay, say by 'hundreds' he means two hundred. That's 18 million sex offenders. And no one questioned this assertion. But I'm thinking, is that what he really means? If there are 18 million sex offenders out there, then what exactly is a sex offender?"

Interested readers can find more information at, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other reputable booksellers.

NY - East Rochester Registered Sex Offender Law

Interview of David Hess of SOhopeful of New York and Gary Pudup of the NYCLU concerning the sex offender residency law in East Rochester, NY.