Sex Offenders

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[Video Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I’m Len Sipes. Today we’re going to talk about the supervision of sex offenders, and there are literally thousands of articles and reports in the national media every year. Few criminal justice topics generate more interest. We’ll talk to two professionals from my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency who directly supervise sex offenders. In the second segment we’ll talk to community supervision officers who supervise female and male sex offenders. Throughout the program we will post agencies who could possibly answer your questions about sex offenders. And with that I’d like to introduce our first guest, Akil Walker, a supervisory community supervision officer, and Clarence Anderson, a community supervision officer. And gentlemen, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Clarence Anderson: Thank you.

Akil Walker: Thank you, real pleasure to be here.

Leonard Sipes: Akil, the first question goes to you. Before we get into the components of the Sex Offender Unit, the thing that’s always amazed me throughout my criminal justice career and sex offenders is that they’re compliant. You go to regular offenders, robbers, or drug offenders, and sometimes they show up, sometimes they don’t – sometimes they’re properly drug tested, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they get the job, sometimes they don’t‚ but with sex offenders, they’re generally speaking very complaint. They dot every i and cross every t. Am I right or wrong?

Akil Walker: Yeah, for the most part. One of the issues that we have to address is that most offenders present very well. They’re working, they’re reporting – drug testing is very negative, so when they come in, they present themselves like they’re everyday citizens, hey, I’m just like you.’

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: That’s one of the difficulties so we’re trying to work with them on their behavior, as that of the every day citizen. We try to work with them just adapting their behavior.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But Clarence, that’s a challenge isn’t it, when you’re supervising sex offenders because you’ve got all of these guys and some women who, again, their showing up, sometimes they’re not, sometimes they’re compliant, sometimes they’re not. But those sex offenders, they’re doing everything right. And that’s a screen, is it not?

Clarence Anderson: That’s true, Len. That’s one of the difficulties in supervising sex offenders nowadays. They are compliant, and as a community supervision officer, you have delved deeper into their behaviors because they will present as Mr. Walker said, appropriately for supervision. You have to go into their background, you have to go into their family history, their criminal record. There’s certain behaviors that will investigate to in an sense sniff out –

Leonard Sipes: Sure.

Clarence Anderson: – inappropriate behaviors and so forth.

Leonard Sipes: And Akil, one of the things in terms of the sex offender unit, we are the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we are in essence the parole and probation agency for Washington D.C., we are a federal agency. How many people are in the Sex Offender Unit and how many offenders are in the Sex Offender Unit?

Akil Walker: We have three supervisors, 23 CSOs. We have 414 active sex offenders, and a total of 620 offenders. Those are monitored offenders currently in jail or in drug treatment programs.

Leonard Sipes: OK so people on the street are what, 600?

Akil Walker: People on the street are 414.

Leonard Sipes: 414, okay. And we have others that we keep an eye on who are in jail or treatment in another state or that sort of thing, right?

Akil Walker: Pending release as well.

Leonard Sipes: All right. So we have a very low caseload. I think the audience needs to understand that in parole and probation agencies throughout this country, it’s not unusual to have caseloads of 150 offenders to every parole and probation agent. Now throughout the country they’re called parole and probation agents, in D.C. they’re called community supervision officers. But in the Sex Offender Unit it’s what, one community supervision officer to every 35 offenders, something along those lines?

Akil Walker: One CSO to every 23 offenders.

Leonard Sipes: 23 offenders.

Akil Walker: Active offenders.

Leonard Sipes: That’s amazing‚ active offenders. Okay, so you have a way of keeping an tight reign on sex offenders, correct?

Akil Walker: Absolutely.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and some of the things that the audience is going to see throughout this show is footage of the community supervision officers using GPS – Global Positioning System, or satellite monitoring where we can actually watch their behavior on a day-to-day basis, on a minute-to-minute bases for that matter. We go to a computer and we can see in real-time where they are, so if they’re hanging out at a playground, we know. We know where they are and we ask what it is they’re doing, correct?

Akil Walker: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s why we have such low numbers, because for each offender, the CSO spends many hours‚ well just one offender, for example, when you’re in general supervision, you don’t have to spend as much time, but for example, Clarence will have to review GPS which takes hours at a time on an offender, tracking him. Depending upon their movements, they can be in D.C. right now, and then later on this afternoon they’re in Virginia, so it takes a lot of time.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: Plus our officers also monitor computerware and stuff like that, and the contact requirements are much higher in our office.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Now Clarence, let me go back to you. Now I’ve seen the community supervision officers hovering over the top the computer terminals watching where a person is going. Now the person is supposed to leave the house and go to work. He has a job, we ensure that he has a job to the best of our ability.

Clarence Anderson: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And we know that he’s scheduled to leave the house at eight o’clock in the morning and arrive at his job at 8:30. But if that person’s veering off to the side and‚ we can see graphically on the map every playground, every church, every subway stop in the District of Columbia, we see that. So if he veers off for 15 minutes and gets to work 15 minutes, or instead of coming back home veers off the playgrounds, we stop him, we call him into the office, we go to his home, and we say, why were you hanging out at the playground? What were you doing at four o’clock this afternoon?’

Clarence Anderson: Right, that’s correct. That kind of deviant behavior at the time may not be considered deviant, but it goes against what their schedule, normal schedule, would be. So in that case we would have to investigate to find out, what was the reason why you went this particular place instead of going straight to work?’ You ask probing questions to gather more information so you can adequately and properly supervise the individual.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Okay. You also go into their computers. You have software that you can access the inside of their computer‚ what it is that they’re looking at from the office, correct?

Clarence Anderson: Yes, we’re expanding our computer search capabilities. Right now we have the ability to extract what they previously viewed and also implement monitoring software on their computer to see what they’ll be viewing in the future. And then the CSOs responsibility would be to come back, look at the computer again, pull that information, and we’ll review it amongst staff and then also bring it to the offender’s attention.

Leonard Sipes: Right, because he or she, but the overwhelming majority of them are males, they’re not supposed to be downloading pornography, they’re not supposed to be downloading child pornography or anything along those lines, correct?

Clarence Anderson: Pornography‚ they shouldn’t be downloading any of that information, but also we’re looking at chats, even computer sites that are not considered necessarily pornography. There may be some adult context which would be questionable that we would like to address with them.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. But even if they’re engaged in email conversations‚ inappropriate email conversations, we monitor that as well?

Clarence Anderson: Yes, correct.

Leonard Sipes: That’s amazing. All right, so we also use polygraphy ‚¬” lie detector tests.

Clarence Anderson: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and why do we do that?

Akil Walker: We need to address certain issues, for example, we may talk to them, have you had contact with minors? Have you been involved in criminal activity?’

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Akil Walker: And so forth because a lot of times the offenders will come into the office and say, everything’s fine.’

Leonard Sipes: Oh yeah

Akil Walker: Everything’s fine, nothing’s going on.’ But when you get a chance to polygraph them on specific questions, this one really comes in‚ okay, well there’s deception indicated on certain areas. Once we get that information, we can bring it to them and like Clarence said, probe deeper into what those questions were that they failed.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And we also have from time to time investigators who actually shadow this person, correct?

Akil Walker: If we have the capability to‚ we have surveillance officers available to our CSOs and our teams.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. What’s the bottom line with you gentlemen in terms of supervising sex offenders? I think that these are some of the most challenging offenders to deal with. And again, throughout my career, people who have committed murder, armed robbery, garden variety types of crimes, drug dealing‚ they’re fairly predictable. But the sex offender‚ again, he presents himself very well. He’s in every meeting, he’s always working, he’s always compliant. You really have to dig to get at whether or not this person is violating, and that’s the challenge. Is it not of your unit?

Akil Walker: Oh yeah, definitely because we’re not only dealing with the offender, but also his family members, his friends and so forth. A lot of times you’ll say, just for an example, Bill didn’t do it, he’s a good guy.’

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: So it’s difficult sometimes working with the community to make them understand that these guys present as normal human beings, but sometimes they issue is a lot deeper.

Leonard Sipes: Clarence, you go out to their homes?

Clarence Anderson: Yes I do.

Leonard Sipes: You visit them in their homes, you visit them where they work. Sometimes they’re prearranged visits and sometimes they’re surprise visits, correct?

Clarence Anderson: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: All right, so tell me about those. And sometimes you go to the house with members of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Clarence Anderson: Correct. The times we go out with the Metropolitan Police Department are called accountability tours.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Clarence Anderson: It holds the offender accountable to let them know that we’re out in the community‚ I can not supervise a sex offender 24 hours a day. With bringing MPD out, it gives the offender opportunity one, to meet the officer and also let them know that somebody else will be watching out for them.

Leonard Sipes: Sure. And those officers spread the word to the other police officers that that John Doe, that Johnny Thomas, who’s living at 1113 Montpelier Street is a sex offender and here’s his criminal background. And he alerts others so the other police officers keep an eye on him as well.

Clarence Anderson: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: So that’s part of the interesting partnership that I think that a lot of parole and probation agencies throughout the country do not have. We work on a day-to-day basis with the Metropolitan Police Department as well as I mean, we are Washington D.C., as well as the FBI, as well as other federal agencies. Again, we are a federal law enforcement criminal justice agency. And that partnership is a big strength of our supervision strategy, correct Clarence?

Clarence Anderson: Right, it’s important. Like I said, I can’t be with them 24/7.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Clarence Anderson: It allows the officers in the community to get to know the offender‚ his behaviors, his hangouts. And if they see him in an inappropriate situation, of course they’ll take action. However, they’ll also notify me to let me know what kind of situations he may be getting himself into so I can address it when he comes in for his office visit.

Leonard Sipes: Now Akil, that’s the heart and soul. It’s all the equipment we have, the satellite monitoring GPS tracking, the lie detector tests, looking at their actions in real-time on the computer, having investigators follow them. But it’s your personal sense as an investigator, it’s your personal sense as a person. We’re trying to help them as well. I do want to get into that part, we provide a ton of treatment. So it’s that combination of working partnership with law enforcement, all the equipment you have at your disposal, your own skills as an investigator, but what about the treatment aspect?

Akil Walker: Well like you said Len, I think all this is done in terms of we use what we call a containment theory, like you mentioned MPD, CSOs, and so forth, bring the attention to communities so that the offender won’t recidivate again.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: So we’re trying to make sure that they get the tools necessary, and that’s where treatment comes into play. Treatment can span from 12 months to 18 months or even longer. We’re starting to extend our treatment program to allow more tests, what we call PPGs, or penile plethysmograph.

Leonard Sipes: We actually measure his arousal capacity, correct?

Akil Walker: Right, to minors, to adults.

Leonard Sipes: Yes.

Akil Walker: They’re likings‚ heterosexual, homosexual likings. And it’s important, we need a complete picture of the offender and we can’t get that just based on the information provided through the offender, so we need the community, MPD, treatment providers, all adding their input on this offender to give us the maximum picture on this offender.

Leonard Sipes: Right, but the point that I do want to make is that we provide treatment – I mean, we fund our sex offender treatment. We not just enforcing the rules, as important as that is.

Akil Walker: Right.

Leonard Sipes: At the same time, we will give that person counseling, at the same time we will give that person the measurement tools to help him because the research is fairly clear that if you ride the individual hard, hold him accountable, if you integrate that treatment package‚ Clarence, this question goes to you, that there’s a good possibility that this person can reside in the community safely without harming anybody else, correct?

Clarence Anderson: That’s correct. With all the necessary tools in place to include treatment, it lowers the offender‚ it can lower the offender’s recidivism rate which is important.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But that’s the final challenge. The final challenge is putting that whole package together. I mean, most parole and probation agencies in this country see their offenders twice a month, maybe‚ for maybe 15 minutes a piece. You guys are out in the field using all this equipment.

Akil Walker: Right. And like Clarence talked on with that treatment piece, they’ve gotta internalize those tools to really make it effective for them.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: They can’t just sit there and sit in treatment, they need to actually practice what they learn. And if they do so, like Clarence said, it’ll seriously reduce the likelihood that they’ll get rearrested in any type. Sex offense or just minor criminal infractions.

Leonard Sipes: All right, that closes our first segment. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us. Watch for us in the second segment as we continue our discussion on the supervision of sex offenders. We’ll be right back.

Leonard Sipes: Hi, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. Our guests for the second segment are two community supervision officers, again, from my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. They are Ivy Gilliam and Anthony Desharten, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Ivy Gilliam: Thank you, Len.

Anthony Desharten: Thanks for having us.

Leonard Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen, before we interview Anthony and Ivy, we’re going to throw to a package of the supervision of sex offenders provided to us by NBC4 here in Washington about the supervision of sex offenders, we’ll be right back.

Video Footage: In the Washington area and across the country an increasing number of sex offenders in the headlines are women, some of them teachers. Tonight in part 2 of her special report, Julie Carey looks at whether parents and educators are teaching children that sex offenders are not always men.

Offender: I felt like this was my only friend…

Reporter: This woman we will call Cala is a convicted sex offender, accused of inappropriate touching for incidents involving a 14 year old nephew. She takes full responsibility for her crime, and after years of probation and therapy, she warns that we don’t properly prepare children for the fact that a sex offender could be a woman.

Offender: There’s always the image of the creapy figure lurking around your children and snatching them off of the swing set and such, but no, not a woman. That’s the Moms.

Reporter: Ed Jagon agrees that society doesn’t like to face the idea of female sex offenders, leaving children vulnerable. He was sexually abused by a middle age baby sitter when he was just 7.

Ed Jagon: When it happened to me I did tell my Mother and it was a baby sitter and my Mother didn’t believe me.

Reporter: Now along with dozens of volunteers he runs a sex abuse awareness program for children called the Good Night Program. Based in Beltsville Maryland, the fairy tale motif has a serious message.

Man: Excuse me, I’m looking for Park Street.

Reporter: Children are taught to recognize 10 deceptions used by would-be sex offenders.

Woman: I would like to get someone to mow my lawn.

Reporter: And in half of the role playing scenarious, the offender is a woman.

Sophia West: What we try to teach the children, education wise, is you look for the behavior of the individual. Whether it be a male, a female, whether it be a family member, whether it be a teacher, a priest, a neighbor or the stranger on the street.

Reporter: At the District of Columbia Superior Court Supervision Office, just 4 female sex offenders are among the hundreds of men being monitored and treated. Still Director, Paul Brennan, warns most female offenders go undetected in part because women are seen as caretakers and naturally have more intimate contact with children.

Paul Brennan: The community in general determines that females don’t commit sex offenses. If they are inclined to molest children, some of the warning signs aren’t going to be picked up on as readily because they are women.

Reporter: Brennan says most female offenders with intensive treatment will not offend again. Still he says one woman supervised by his office is classified as predatory. She’ll be placed under electronic surveilance. And Brennan says as society slowly begins to acknowledge the danger in female sex offenders, the criminal justice system must do it’s part.

Paul Brennan: What we can do in the criminal justice system is hold the female sex offenders just as accountable as the male offenders. The message will be clear if we are doing that.

Reporter: Julie Carey, News 4.

Leonard Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen again, welcome to back to D.C. Public Safety. Ivy Gilliam and Anthony Desharten. Ivy, the first question goes to you. We saw in the package about one of our comprades, Paul Brennan, supervising female and male sex offenders. Now I want to make it clear that we don’t have that many female sex offenders compared to the male sex offenders, there’s only ten compared to like 400. But there are differences in terms of supervising men and women, especially female sex offenders, correct?

Ivy Gilliam: That’s correct Len. In general we like to take a proactive approach for both our male and female sex offenders. But the differences are instances where we have to consider children, consider that our female offenders may have other issues‚ childcare, finding parenting and maybe even issues around employment in order to be able to take care of those children that they have.

Leonard Sipes: I think one of the things we want to talk about in general, but we’re getting back to female offenders, is recent research basically stating that 50% of all offenders are claiming histories of mental health issues. For women offenders, it’s higher than that. If you take a look at substance abuse histories, again, for female offenders, they have higher rates and more intense rates of substance abuse. So it seems to me that female offenders bring more challenges than the male offenders simply because of their backgrounds.

Ivy Gilliam: And they do. And we meet those needs by placing all of our offenders, by placing the female offenders into treatment programs if they’re necessary so they can get those needs met.

Leonard Sipes: And the bottom line for the public, and Anthony, I’m going to go to you, the bottom line in terms of the public is, are those needs met? I mean, a person – because a lot of female offenders come from histories of sexual violence. They have their own histories of being a victim of sexual violence and being abused as children and as young women. That seems to me to be an extraordinarily difficult person to deal with. Can we tell the public that these intense needs that they bring to the table are adequately met?

Anthony Desharten: Well they’re most definitely adequately met. And one thing that’s special about CSOSA is that we offer so many services to the offenders. We give them every opportunity to become a stable individual. And that deals with often substance abuse treatment, mental health services, sex offender treatment‚ so really what our goal is is to do our best to help them reintegrate into the community.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and we know from research, and I want to make this very clear to the public‚ very, very clear – is that we just can’t watch them, we have to provide them with treatment services. Department of Justice research made this very clear in the mid 1990s, that the more you supervise them, all you do is violate them and put them back them back in prison to the point where the prisons can’t deal with the volume coming in. But if you provide services, stabilize them in the community‚ especially with a person with mental health issues. I mean, who would argue that a person coming out of the prison system with a severe mental health problem needs mental health treatment, or it’s guaranteed that he’s going to go back to prison? So we intervene, we try to provide these services that stabilize that person, but at the same time we still hold them accountable.

Anthony Desharten: Exactly.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And Ivy, the difficulties of dealing with sex offenders, I threw this out to our guests in terms of the first segment, you’ve got a very conniving, cunning, individual‚ I mean, because they have a predisposition in some cases towards violence against women. They have a predisposition in some cases of sexual urges towards children. I mean, that’s something that is extraordinarily difficult to deal with because it can be the core of that person’s psyche.

Ivy Gilliam: Right. And which again is the reason why they work so hard to make sure that they fly under the radar, why they make it a point to be as compliant as possible so that we won’t look, we won’t probe, we won’t ask those important questions that will gain us access to information that will be helpful in protecting the public. And also protecting themselves from possible situations where they leave themselves susceptible to reoffending.

Leonard Sipes: Now when they go through the treatment process, the people who deal with them, they’re experts. I mean, you guys are experts, but the psychologists and psychiatrists who deal with them, they know when they’re not telling the truth. And I can be a bit more explicit, but this is family television. They know when they’re not being honest and they confront them about that. And then you’ve got the lie detector tests, and you’ve got the satellite monitoring, and you’re viewing their computer – there’s a certain point where you can get a fairly decent picture as to who this person is.

Ivy Gilliam: That’s correct. They also give us the opportunity to work with them, the treatment specialists, so that once information is obtained through treatment, that information is given to us by way of staffings with the treatment providers and the offender, so that we could all sit down and discuss what’s going on in this person’s situation in order to better assist them.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Now Anthony, we have‚ I mean, no offender on community supervision is perfect, it’s impossible. I mean, we expect issues, we always expect issues. If a person comes out with a serious substance abuse history, that person when he gets to the street is‚ we expect that this person is going to try to sneak in drug use, which is why we drug test as massively as we do so we can ferret that out and deal with it immediately.

But we expect these sort of things. Our sex offenders, when they violate what we have as a serious of intermediate sanctions that we take immediate action to deal with that person so that person knows that there are consequences for his actions.

Anthony Desharten: Yes, it’s interesting you brought up drug testing because even with sex offenders, it seems as though substance abuse issues are at the forefront. But we do have sanctions in place to help deal with those. Some of the more basic sanctions are daily reporting to the supervision office. When an individual is having problems, we want to see them more often.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Desharten: If they’re on maximum or medium supervision, we can increase the supervision to intensive, that would also give us the benefit of seeing them more.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Desharten: Additional sanction would be GPS monitoring.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Is there more treatment? There’s just a lot of contact with us, that’s the bottom line.

Anthony Desharten: Bottom line, yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Anthony Desharten: And when there are issues, we notify their treatment vendors immediately, especially they’re sex offender treatment providers immediately so then we can also address the issue in the supervision office, but they’re also addressing the issue in the treatment center as well.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And the question goes out to both of you, we can assure the public, because the public is scared of sex offenders, again, everyday I get news clips from all over the country, and every day those news clips are filled with stories about sex offenders and what different states are doing to deal with them and just basically sex offenders – that’s all you read about, it’s guaranteed everyday in terms of the news summary. We can tell the public through your low caseload ratios‚ again, it’s what, 23 offenders to every community supervision officer. I know of other states immediately surrounding the District of Columbia where it’s 150 to one. So you have 23 to one, you have all this equipment, you have all this treatment‚ we can safely maintain, this is what the public wants to know, that we can safely maintain these individuals in the community?

Ivy Gilliam: We can. Through the technology that’s now made available, we are able to watch them closely and to be more effective in our positions.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Desharten: As Ms. Gilliam indicated earlier, we take a very proactive approach towards supervision, that’s with regular contact with the offenders, regular contact with the treatment vendors, and we also like to establish collateral contacts with their family, friends, girlfriends –

Leonard Sipes: Do their families cover for them? I mean, are the families enablers or are the families helpful in terms of the supervision?

Anthony Desharten: At times they do attempt to cover up for their family member, but I’ve situations where family members are concerned about the well-being of their relative in the community, they want them to succeed as much as we do.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Desharten: So when they do see an issue, they do bring it to our attention at times.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s one of the things that a lot of people are going to understand, but it’s true. Again, I’ve been in the business for quite a few years, and sometimes family members are your best ally. They want to see the person succeed, so when they see the person veering off to the side, often times they will bring you that information.

Ivy Gilliam: But that comes with early establishment of a rapport with the family members. We make sure that we gain collateral contact so that we can contact those family members and build a relationship with them as well as the offender. And it helps the offender and it also helps us.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And I’ve seen the community supervision officers go into the homes of offenders and they do exactly that – they establish that relationship with the family, that’s why you don’t want all the visits to be surprise visits, you want the family there. You maintain that contact with the family. I saw a mom one time chastise the dickens out of her son for not getting work and saying that, he and I will be at your office the next day in terms of looking for jobs and I want the job services,’ and the offender just sitting there going, okay.’ I mean, sometimes family members are our best allies.

Anthony Desharten: We love that though.

Ivy Gilliam: We do.

Anthony Desharten: That’s exactly what we need because they have the most insight to how an individual’s doing in the community because we can’t be with them 24 hours a day.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And they are you barometer as to how that person is doing. So suddenly if this person is not under GPS but leaves the house at three o’clock in the morning, that’s of concern to her, that’s a concern to mom or dad and they will bring that to your attention, in many cases so the offender can be immediately confronted.

Ivy Gilliam: Oh yeah.

Leonard Sipes: And the quick answer is, because we’re running out of time, you’re some of the best investigators out there. I mean, you deal with some of the toughest clientele out there. What’s it like being a sex offender CSO?

Ivy Gilliam: It’s challenging, but it’s completely doable.

Leonard Sipes: Clarence, a quick answer?

Anthony Desharten: And because it’s challenging, it’s also extremely rewarding as well.

Leonard Sipes: Great. Ladies and gentlemen – well first of all, thank the two of you.

Anthony Desharten: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us today. This is D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Len Sipes. Watch for us next month as we produce another program on the criminal justice system. Have yourselves a pleasant day.

[Video Ends]

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Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C., this is Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have Shannon Blalock today. She is a parole and probation officer with the Kentucky Department of Corrections in Parole and Probation. She is a parole and probation officer. She is with parole and probation intelligence and she is also dealing with fugitive apprehension. What we’re talking about today, ladies and gentlemen, is going to be criminal offenders using social networking sites; Facebook, MySpace, Digg, ten tons of others. Also, the issues of using hand-held computers, commonly known as cell phones, by individuals who are under the supervision of parole and probation agencies throughout the country. But, first, our usual commercial. We are truly grateful and, what I mean by truly grateful, we really are. We’re up to 230,000 requests a month for D.C. Public safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. We are just as impressed as impressed could be in terms of the numbers and in terms of your interaction with us. We really appreciate it. What you can do is go to media M-E-D-I-A.csosa and leave a comment. That’s what most people do or they get in touch with me directly by email, which is Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P-E-S, that’s P as in pumpernickel, or follow me directly at Twitter. That’s L-E-N sipes (without any breaks). Back to Shannon Blalock. Shannon, you’ve been with the State of Kentucky for, what about four years now?

Shannon Blalock: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And you have a very interesting background. Part of your job as a parole and probation officer is to do the usual things that so many parole and probation officers do throughout the country, but somehow, someway you started stumbling onto this concept of social media sites in terms of fugitive apprehension. Correct?

Shannon Blalock: Yes, that’s right. I was supervising a caseload, a regular caseload, and one of my offenders absconded supervision on me and, at that time, our network servers blocked the use of MySpace and Facebook and other social networking sites the way many government agencies do and so when I was home one evening I decided to look him up on MySpace and sure enough he was there, but the profile was set to private. So, I looked for his wife’s profile, found her and found that she had posted a landline phone number on one of her friend’s comment sections.

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s interesting.

Shannon Blalock: Yes. So, I was able to trace down to Florida and get him picked up.

Len Sipes: That’s just amazing. So, you sat at your desk and apprehended a fugitive.

Shannon Blalock: That’s right.

Len Sipes: Now, think about that. In all of my law enforcement experience when we were trying to apprehend fugitives or when we were trying to apprehend wanted for warrants, every night, if you were working the night shift, the duty sergeant would give you about 12 warrant and he said, if nothing goes on tonight, go out and see if you can serve these warrants. And so you go and knock on their doors at 1:00 in the morning and, out of the 12 warrants, oh, maybe once or twice a month you actually came into contact with somebody and arrested them on the warrant. And you sat at home and were able to arrest an individual sitting at home using your computer.

Shannon Blalock: Right. With, of course, the gracious assistance from different agencies and in particular the one down there in Florida.

Len Sipes: Of course.

Shannon Blalock: Yes. Able to work up usable information in really just a matter of a couple of minutes and a couple of mouse clicks and did a wanted fugitive off the streets.

Len Sipes: It is this larger issue, though, because every time we take a step in terms of social networking sites, every time we take that step it opens up endless, endless doors in terms of what social networking means. In essence, what we’re talking about is criminal offenders and people have this assumption that criminal offenders are not “sophisticated enough” to go onto Facebook and to conduct criminal activities or to go on to Facebook, MySpace, or the hundreds of other social media sites and try, sex offenders in this case, and try to entice that young girl to meet him.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: But they do, they do it every single day.

Shannon Blalock: Right. And it doesn’t really take that savvy a person to click onto the Web and to click onto a couple of sites and to create a profile and start meeting people.

Len Sipes: So, both of us agree that if we can do it, anybody can do it.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. And that’s one way that we’re not all that different from our offenders. I mean, if we’re on social networking sites, meeting and chatting with friends and meeting new friends and things like that, then chances are excellent that our offenders are doing the very same thing.

Len Sipes: Well, there is a problem throughout the country in terms of cell phones in prisons. And, when I say cell phones, again, it’s a wake up call. Somebody once said to me that the cell phone that I now carry, which is a SmartPhone BlackBerry, that that BlackBerry that I carry now is as powerful as my desktop computer was five years ago.

Shannon Blalock: That’s absolutely true and I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be speeding down the interstate and looking up information on tourist attractions. Yeah. It’s amazing.

Len Sipes: Well, but the point is that if they have them inside of prisons and we’re not just talking about a couple in the prison systems throughout the country, they’re reporting hundreds and hundreds in every prison system. So, if we’re talking about offenders inside there, it’s as if they have access to a laptop computer. It’s as if they have access to the Internet. They do have access to the Internet and they do have, as your child is searching social media sites.

Shannon Blalock: Right. And what we see a lot of times with our criminal offenders is that they’re incredibly charismatic and they can engage people very well in person and online and a lot of times can get them to do, get folks on the outside to do their bidding, legal or illegal activities.

Len Sipes: Isn’t that amazing?

Shannon Blalock: It really is.

Len Sipes: And the charismatic, many of the offenders that we supervise, they’ve lost their calling. I mean, assume many of these individuals should have gone into sales.

Shannon Blalock: Yes. [Laughs] I couldn’t agree more.

Len Sipes: A long time ago. It’s, like, this individual, I mean, if you’re going to hustle that hard in terms of selling drugs. If you’re going to hustle that hard in terms of conducting business over the Internet, why didn’t you just go into sales?

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. I actually told one of my offenders that one time. If he was that successful in recruiting and developing new business, then perhaps he should go into sales.

Len Sipes: I mean, they missed their calling quite some time ago, but every time we discuss this we open the door to other areas. So, we have offenders in the prison systems having access to hand-held computers, what I call cell phones. We’re talking about the average offender out there floating through life and they’re interacting on MySpace and they’re interacting on Facebook and there are hundreds of additional social media sites that they’re interacting on. Gangs constantly have their own web sites. We’re not talking about social media sites. We’re talking about web sites that they have created or had others create with them where they display acts, illegal acts.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. Well, I mean, gangs, criminal activity, other people involved in the criminal enterprise, aside from it being illegal, it’s just like a legitimate business. I would look for them to recruit business using Twitter or having a Facebook page or having their own presence on the Web. They really market themselves the way that traditional businesses are doing it.

Len Sipes: I market this entity, D.C. Public Safety, on Twitter all the time and I found that Twitter is probably one of the most powerful modalities of getting the word out. Well, you go through Twitter and you search on specific key words, such as law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, but you also search for the term, crime, and there’s been more than a couple, what I consider to be fairly nefarious web sites, and Twitter sites. So, obviously these guys are on there. The final thing I wanted to get into as an illustration as to how difficult this issue is. I saw a report on CNN yesterday as I was sitting at my desk, yes, CNN runs all day in my office. This is according to CNN. 20 million computers have been compromised by child sex offenders. Now, where they get this figure, I have no idea, how valid it is, how real it is. I wouldn’t have any idea. But what they’re saying is sex offenders are taking over your computers and using your computer to receive information, to receive obviously horrendously illegal, not just illegal, horrendously illegal photographs of children engaging in sex acts, but they’re using your computer as the interface. So, when the police knock on your door and tell you that they have a warrant for your arrest to search your computer in terms of child porn and you’re there struggling with what to say because you know it’s absurd, it may be that it’s this interface. So, sex offenders, they’re sophisticated enough to take over somebody else’s computer and to use that computer as an interface to get what it is that they need. So, the point is that they’re out there.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. And what I have found is that you don’t really have to have all that significant a technical knowledge. To be able to do anything like that, all you have to do is be motivated to seek out the information, usually available on the Web, that will tell you exactly step by step how to get these things done.

Len Sipes: Well, I just copied down something called, search engine optimization, which is basically web site marketing and sent it out to a bunch of my folks, which gives a step by step breakdown as to how to increase your presence on the Internet. So, if I can have instant access to that information and it was clear enough to me, then it would be clear enough to the outside. I do. I mean, I’m an ex-cop with a couple college degrees. I’m not a technical person as problems with the radio program prove and so if I can do this stuff, anybody can do this stuff.

Shannon Blalock: That’s exactly true. I mean, I have no formal education or training in computers or anything specific like this, but you become motivated to search for offenders or to do a certain activity online and the more you search out information, the more information you gain which leads you to more information and somehow you get it done.

Len Sipes: We’re going to give Shannon’s email address and I’ll talk about a manual that Shannon did, but I’m warning users right now that Shannon and I talked about this before we went on the program. We’re going to give her email address, but she developed a manual which is sitting in front of me and Shannon is also coming to my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, here in downtown Washington, D.C. We are a federal parole and probation entity. Shannon’s going to come up and do some training for us and she wrote this manual. Not everybody’s going to be able to get hold of this manual. You’re going to have to send a letter on letterhead and we’re going to have to be sure you’re who you say you are before the manual goes out, but what Shannon did was to create a manual developing an investigative presence on the Internet and talking about Internet strategies and we’re not going to give out any secrets in terms of this conversation. But the point is that my guess is that folks in law enforcement, folks in parole and probations, corrections are going to need to learn how to do this, how to develop investigative identities on the Internet, how to pass yourself off as somebody else, and how to, the fact that there are different web sites that you can use to search for information on just anybody.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, the amount of information that folks are willing to share on the Internet are absolutely staggering and is beneficial, not only for those of us in probation and parole, but also the law enforcement community using it as an investigative tool. It’s absolutely incredible what you can find online that people willingly put there for themselves.

Len Sipes: Including the offender population.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Now, again, I don’t want to take this too far. Look, there are people out there who are under supervision or using the Internet every day and they’re using it properly. It’s not nefarious. I do not want to suggest that every person who has a criminal background and every person on parole and probation supervision is doing the wrong thing in terms of computers, but there are plenty who are.

Shannon Blalock: Of course. Sure there are. I had an offender one time who was placed on probation and the first thing I did was to go look at his MySpace page and he’d written a blog about how badly he’d messed up and was asking his friends on his MySpace page to please assist him in doing the right thing. And so that kind of gave me an additional insight into the mind of the offender that I’m meant to supervise and then, of course, you have other offenders that you go and check their Facebook page and they’ve posted pictures of themselves doing kickstands and other things that are clearly against the rules of probation and parole.

Len Sipes: One of the things that I’ve tried to get across to my daughters is that whatever you put on, I mean, sooner or later you’re going to apply for jobs with the government or with fairly responsible entities. You sitting there smoking, I’m not suggesting they do this, I’m using this for illustrative purposes. You sitting there smoking a joint with a bottle of Jack Daniels with your friends all there is not going to be looked upon very kindly five years from now when you go for that government job or when you go for any job for that matter. So, what you post on the Internet stays there forever; it does not disappear.

Shannon Blalock: That’s right. And you would not believe the amount of folks who have even applied for internships with our offices that have been turned down simply because they show themselves engaging in illegal activities on their Facebook page.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh. And so people have this natural inclination to brag about who they are and what they are and, if your bragging rights includes criminal activity; I mean, gangs will create web sites or have web sites created for them, I mean, I’ve even created a web site, it’s not that difficult. Gangs will post pictures of them with loot taken from a robbery. And now if that’s not incredibly stupid, I don’t know what is, but they don’t seem to understand what a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that whatever you put on the Internet stays there forever.

Shannon Blalock: Well, I think people operate under the assumption a lot of times that the information they put on there, it’s only going to be seen by folks who know them, but in reality, it’s out there and it’s available for public consumption by anyone.

Len Sipes: Which is one of the reasons why children, and when I say children, it could be anybody under the age of 18, that’s one of the reasons why they believe that that communication with this anonymous person through a chat room becomes a private matter.

Shannon Blalock: Yes, they do and they develop this false sense of security that they may know who this person is even though they’ve never met them, they have no idea who this person might be in real life, they develop this intimacy with somebody they’re chatting with and operate under the false assumption that they can trust them.

Len Sipes: I’m going to reintroduce Shannon. Shannon Blalock; she is a parole and probation officer with the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Division of Parole and Probation. She is a parole and probation officer. She works in parole and probation intelligence and she works in fugitive apprehension. Now, I’m going to give Shannon’s email address in terms of the manual that Shannon developed but, once again, you’re going to have to, once that contact has been established, you’re going to have to get something to her on letterhead and a superior where Shannon and staff can get back in touch with that individual before Shannon will be sending out a copy of the manual. It’s Let me see if I can stumble through this once again. It’s Did I get it correct?

Shannon Blalock: That’s correct. Yes, that’s it.

Len Sipes: Okay. Cool. And so the manual that you put together in essence reminds all of us to create investigative identities; in other words, so we can operate on the Internet and we can cloak ourselves so it doesn’t say Kentucky Department of Corrections.

Shannon Blalock: Right. There are instances where you can get some very useful information by going onto the Web as your agency. For instance, Kentucky, our Division of Parole and Probation, we have a page on MySpace that’s dedicated to our probation and parole fugitives and we received an incredible amount of tips and helpful information from folks, members of the community, who go onto our MySpace site, see the folks on there, and then give us usable information because they don’t want absconded or fugitives in their community anymore than we do.

Len Sipes: Of course. And parents want their kids captured without violence and without them, the police would come to their house at 2:00 in the morning.

Shannon Blalock: Sure. Absolutely. And I’ve always told folks that it definitely behooves them to turn themselves in so that they don’t put themselves or their family in danger and, of course, they don’t pick up additional charges. But in terms of looking around for violators of conditions of supervision, violators of the law and fugitives, chances are you really are not going to have very much luck going on as Len Sipes, former cop. I mean, so you might want to on there under an assumed identity.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh. And basically the manual provides suggestions in terms of how to go about that and there are various sites on the Web; now, I didn’t know this. And, again, I’m not a technical person, Lord knows, I’m not a technical person. Ask my wife; I’m not a technical person. If you search Google, it is referred to as the surface Web, but there are web sites there that search the deep Web and the surface Web is 20 percent of what’s there on the Internet. So, when you search Google, you’re only searching for 20 percent of what’s on the Internet. There are ways of searching the deep Web and there are web sites out there that are construed to find individuals that are available to the public and cost no money.

Shannon Blalock: That’s correct. I’ve had the pleasure of going to speak to several agencies and one of them was with the HIDTA, the high intensity drug trafficking areas, and they had not every heard of social network search engines where you can search for people specifically on a number of social networks instead of going to each individual site and typing in a search and so it’s very time efficient to be able to use a social networking site, social networking social engine, to look for the target of your investigation.

Len Sipes: So, a search is basically across the Web.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. Yeah. And not only will it search, I’ve got a variety of different search engines in the manual and not only does it search social networking sites, but like you said, it will search into the deep Web to see if maybe your offender has left footprints somewhere that you didn’t know about and then can follow up from there.

Len Sipes: There comes a point where it is, one time as a police officer, as a parole and probation agent, as a correctional officer, you developed your reputation in terms of your shoe leather; how much time you spent in the community with your ear to the ground talking to a wide variety of people. Now, I’m not going to suggest that sitting there and searching social media sites is more important than getting out into the community and talking to employers, talking to the girlfriend, talking to the mother, talking to the brother, talking to the person who lives with that individual because they are an incredible source of information regarding that offender. A lot of times you can take action to circumvent something happening. But it seems to me that equally important now is this presence on the Internet and the ability and the knowledge of searching Internet sites, Web sites, social media sites to figure out what your person is doing.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. Whenever I do this discussion with groups I talk about the concept of virtual home visit and what I talk about in there is, of course, it will never take the place of in-person home visits, but what you’re doing is looking at the person’s virtual home. Folks who create social network accounts decorate it any way they want to with music and pictures. They invite the friends that they want in there. They display the art and other things that are of interest to them in there. And so whenever you go to do a physical home visit for an offender, you’re getting the very best version of that offender, how they think you want them to act. But a lot of times when you visit their virtual home, you see the offender in the light that they really are or the way that they want to be seen by friends, so it just gives you an additional insight to your offender so that you can effectively supervise the ones that are on supervision and, of course, a way to apprehend the folks who’ve absconded.

Len Sipes: Now, there are people out there who are simply saying, okay, fine, Leonard, Shannon, this is all well and interesting, but if I’m not incredibly or completely stupid, I’m simply going to use another name.

Shannon Blalock: Right. Yeah, a lot of times they will do that, but we can gain information from previous investigations, look on friends of friends lists, and just look for photographs that look familiar. I know a lot of folks who don’t sign up for social network sites under their actual name. They sign up under their same name, like Happy, or Bull, or

Len Sipes: Cool Breeze. How many guys that I know back in the ’70s, it was all Cool Breeze, the ’70s and ’80s. Yeah.

Shannon Blalock: Cool Breeze? Yeah, the interesting thing about all these social networking sites is that you can search not only by first and last name, but you can search by screen name or email address. You can even browse by location and so, if you know that your offender is 32 years old, 6’1″, and is a white guy who smokes, then you can narrow down the search pretty close on places like MySpace.

Len Sipes: And my guess is that within the alias file that we all keep within various parole and probation law enforcement agencies, my guess is that people are creatures of habit; they’re going to go back and use one of the previous aliases that they’ve given themselves throughout the years.

Shannon Blalock: Absolutely. Yeah.

Len Sipes: So, if somebody, if Cool Breeze is out there and I know there are 10,000 Cool Breezes, but at least were back in the ’70s and ’80s, I mean, ordinarily you can take a look at a person’s rap sheet, you can take a look at a person’s parole and probation record and there are maybe five, six, or seven different aliases in their and those aliases can lead you to that individual.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah. And not only that, but I’ve found that a lot of times our offenders will tattoo their various aliases or nicknames onto their body somewhere, so just take a look at prison records or previous investigation reports and see what names they’ve got tattooed on their body.

Len Sipes: Now, all of that bring ups this question, I suppose: At what point do we simply say, well, wait a minute, we can’t do both. The average parole and probation agent in this country carries very large caseloads. Now, here it’s because we’re a federal agency, we’re, thank the Lord, that we have the money to keep caseloads, all of our caseloads are 15 to 1 less. They are specialize caseloads, can go as low as 20 to 1. Now, but still, even if you’ve got a great caseload or even if you have 150 offenders, taking on the Internet presence, doing that is complicated enough and time-consuming enough to the point where one almost has got to take prominence over the other.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah. And in Kentucky, what we have done, is I supervised a caseload for about three years and then after a meeting of statewide probation and parole supervisors and wardens, whenever I demonstrated what all could be accomplished on the Web, they created a specialized position for me to be able to do this for probation and parole under the Department of Corrections. And so this is what I do full-time, but other than that while I was supervising a caseload, I would pick it up here and there whenever I had a little bit of slack. But, of course, I was already pretty computer literate and savvy with social networking sites. What I would encourage folks to do is just sit down and play with it. It’s going to come quicker to you than you think if you’re not familiar with it already.

Len Sipes: Well, if it’s government, and again I feel bad in saying this because we provide a ton of training here, almost too much training it seems, but a lot of government agencies simply are not as fortunate as we are and they don’t have the money and I would imagine the overwhelming amount of people who are going to be learning this, it’s going to be through their own volition, through their own efforts.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah, that’s true. And then, of course, you also run into the roadblock of several government agencies.

Len Sipes: They won’t let you have access to social media sites. That’s right.

Shannon Blalock: Yeah, they’re not recognizing the value in that and particularly for folks who are supervising a specialized caseload of sex offenders. It’s absolutely amazing the amount of information that even our sex offenders will put on adult-type dating sites. I was looking at one one day and one of them used a booking photo from jail as his profile photo on an adult dating site.

Len Sipes: Okay. Well, that’s incredibly stupid, but

Shannon Blalock: Yes. [Laughs] But they will do that.

Len Sipes: Well, and the other part of it and the larger discussion of what I call hand-held computers, what other people call their iPhones or their BlackBerry’s or the Droid. It’s just a little too much to comprehend when it’s not your mom’s computer, it’s not the computer in your house, it’s not the computer in the library, it’s the fact that everybody out there is walking around with a computer strapped to themselves and so the sex offender says, well, George, let me borrow your hand-held computer so I can go onto one of the social media sites and see if I can track myself down a vulnerable young person. But how do you handle? That’s impossible. For most of us it’s just an explosion of opportunities which means an explosion of responsibilities that my guess is, my guess, the guess of most criminologists’ collective guess, is that we’re not prepared for that.

Shannon Blalock: No, we really are not. In terms of the training that often agencies receive is outdated or maybe just they’re just a step behind what offenders are able to accomplish, especially with gaining access to the Internet on their cell phones. I know in Kentucky we don’t allow our offenders to have cell phone plans that do put them on the Internet. Of course, there’s no way of guaranteeing that they’re not going over to a neighbor’s computer or anywhere else or borrowing a phone from somebody on the street and trying to acquire new victims that way.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Because I can see them doing that with sex offenders, but if you did that with regular people on supervision, they’re going to complain immediately is what you’re doing is blocking them from legitimate job opportunities.

Shannon Blalock: That’s true. Yeah.

Len Sipes: And so it becomes a very sticky, wicked that we all collectively in parole and probation throughout the country and, for that matter, throughout the world, are going to have to examining and stumbling with, but Shannon Blalock is coming to our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and you’re going to provide our folks with all of the training that you have so we can pretty much take it from there and to guide us and I’m really looking forward to you coming up, Shannon.

Shannon Blalock: I am as well. Thank you.

Len Sipes: Our guest today has been Shannon Blalock. She is a parole and probation officer with the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Division of Parole and Probation, parole and probation officer, parole and probation intelligence and fugitive apprehension and now a self-taught Internet expert. Her email address is But after that initial introduction by email, you’re going to have to send a letter, a regular snail mail letter, on letterhead with the contact of your supervisor so we can do the proper checks and, if so, if you can prove who you are, Shannon will include a copy of her manual. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Once again, we are extremely of all of your letters, comments, phone calls, email comments, and we’re up to, thanks to you, 230,000 requests on a monthly basis for the television, radio, blog and transcript portion at We really appreciate you being with us today and please have yourself a pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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Halloween Sex Offender Supervision-DC Public Safety-196,000 Requests a Month

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– Audio begins –

Leonard Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Every year at Halloween what we do is to take special efforts or make special efforts regarding sex offenders who have histories of offending children and we either call them in in terms of a mass orientation, call them in to one particular place, or we do joint patrols with the Metropolitan Police Department here in Washington, D.C. and we send out our teams on the sex offender teams along with people from the Metropolitan Police Department and we go and make unannounced and, in some cases, announced visits to the homes of these sex offenders with child abuse or child related crimes in their background. Before we get into the program, I do want to thank everybody. We’re up to 196,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. Public Safety radio, television blog and transcripts. If you want to get back in touch with us, you can follow us at Twitter, L-E-N sipes S-I-P-E-S, or reach me via email, Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P not T, P-E-S To talk about what we’re going to be doing on Halloween, we have two individuals with us; Paul Brennan and April Cole and they’re both supervisory community supervision officers from our Agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And to Paul Brennan and April Cole, welcome to D.C. Public

Paul Brennan: Thank you.

April Cole: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: All right. What are we going to be doing tonight? April, what we’re going to be doing is going out and we have 500 active sex offenders on our sex offender unit supervised by our sex offender unit. We’re going to be out and we’re sending out, what, nine teams of community supervision officers and MPD folks.

April Cole: Yes. Tonight we’re going to be conducting home visits through our SAFE initiative; that is a sex offender accountability and felony enforcement initiative.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. That sounds very official.

April Cole: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: [Laughs] We’re going to be going into the homes of sex offenders.

April Cole: We’re going to be going to the homes of sex offenders who reside in the District of Columbia, who have charges against minor children, or who have a condition which states that they can’t have contact with the minor children.

Leonard Sipes: Uh-huh. Paul Brennan, one of the interesting things that we have in our agency is that it’s just not the act of charge the person’s on probation for or if they come out of the prison. It’s not just a sex offense that is their current charge. Anywhere in that person’s history, if they’ve been convicted of a sex offense, we supervise them as a sex offender. Correct?

Paul Brennan: Yes, that’s correct. Many of our offenders are not currently on supervision for a sex offense. They may be on for a drug offense, a burglary offense, but in their background, they may have a prior sex offense and those are cases we also supervise.

Leonard Sipes: That’s really interesting because I came from the state of Maryland. I spent 14 years with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and I don’t think we did that. I think it was just the current charge and I think most states, I really don’t know, but most states, I’ve been told, that they only supervise for the current charge. That guy, that individual, that woman could be charged with a sex offense, convicted of a sex offense 10 years ago and they’re supervised.

Paul Brennan: Well, rationale for doing that is that if an individual had issues pertaining to sex offending, deviant sex interest, it’s unlikely that that deviant interest is going to change in 10 years and that if they reenter the system on some new criminal conduct that that sex offense issue surrounding that prior sex offense will be an issue that we need to address now.

Leonard Sipes: I think that’s clearly a public safety move on our part because a sexual predisposition, April, doesn’t go away. If you’re sexually predisposed, if your sexual predisposition is towards children, that doesn’t go away. Correct?

April Cole: No, it doesn’t go away. And you really have to think of it in terms of what that person, and I would say it in general terms, really likes. It’s what they are attracted to. So, if you are attracted to 7 to 10-year-old boys, that’s your primary attraction.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And that’s not going to change overnight.

April Cole: No, it’s not going to change.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. What we’re going to be doing on Halloween. We have basically the size of some small police departments. We have18 individuals and 9 teams from our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. They’re all from the sex offender unit. They’re sex offender specialists. They’re going to be going out with 18 people, individuals, from the Metropolitan Police Department and we’re going to be going to the homes of these sex offenders, 150 out of the 500 active, the 150 who have children, a history of preying on children and we’re going to be doing what, April? We’re going to be going to their homes and what happens when we get there?

April Cole: Well, we’re going to go into their homes. We have instructed them that they cannot allow trick-or-treaters into their home, cannot pass out candy. We’re looking to ensure that they don’t have their porch lights on, that they’re not having any types of Halloween parties or participating in any kind of activities that would allow minor children into their homes.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And one of the things that we’ve done in past years, Paul, is we’ve even gone back to that same house several times.

Paul Brennan: Yes, that’s true. So, we may visit the house and then decide that we need to go back and check to make sure they were still in compliance.

Leonard Sipes: When our folks, whether we’re with the Metropolitan Police Department or whether we’re by ourselves, because you have fairly small caseloads on the sex offender unit. You have, I think, these individual go through how many on average face-to-face contacts a week? It’s at least two a week. Correct?

Paul Brennan: It can be a minimum of two to once a week, depending on their risk level, but the majority of people who have molested children; we’re going to see quite often.

Leonard Sipes: We’re going to see a lot. So, when you go into the home, not necessarily on Halloween, but when you go into the home at any time, you’re looking for any evidence that that person has been involved in nefarious activities. So, needless to say, if you walk in and there’s a child there, we take immediate action. If you walk in and see pornography, if you walk in and the person’s madly working at the computer trying to erase files, obviously we’ve got something there that we’re concerned about. So, we’re looking for lots of different things when we go inside that home.

Paul Brennan: We’re looking for any violations of their conditions of release certainly. And, if we do see violations, we’re going to take immediate action to address it. So, if, for example, an offender’s prohibited from having contact with children and we find a child in the home, there are some major consequences that are going to occur immediately.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But, I mean, one of the things I do want to emphasize and either one of you can answer this question is that it’s not just Halloween where we team up with the Metropolitan Police Department. I think we do 8,000 accountability tours throughout the course of the year, where our folks plus MPD go out and visit the homes of offenders. In some cases, they are announced visits because we do want the family there because there’s a concern we want the entire family to be involved in or the sponsor or the person volunteering helping that offender. And, in some cases, it’s a totally unannounced visit. So, the Metropolitan Police Department is working with us every day of the year, day in, day out. Our community supervision officers, and in most places they call them parole and probation officers, they’re working with the folks at the Metropolitan Police Department and so I don’t want to give the impression that MPD, the Metropolitan Police Department, that this is a once a year activity. This is an every day activity. Every day we’re exchanging information with them, every day they’re looking at the global positioning system tracking; we have over 800 offenders on GPS at any given day. We have a lot of sex offenders on GPS. April, so the partnership with MPD is a given; it is a day in, day out affair and this is just a continuation of that partnership.

April Cole: That’s correct. We have a great relationship with the MPD. Chief Lanier is committed to working with our agency to ensure that we are out in the community, that they’re aware of who our offenders are. They’re conducting accountability tours with us seven days a week. We were out last month on a Sunday morning and we conducted approximately 80 tours in a three day period; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Leonard Sipes: Wow! So, our people are out there on the weekends working with MPD out there on the weekends and we’re making these special checks. So, this is constant all throughout the course of the year.

April Cole: Yes, it is.

Leonard Sipes: And I just wanted to say that, ladies and gentlemen, because I think we have an extraordinarily good working relationship with MPD. In my experience with parole and probation, we had a working relationship with law enforcement but nothing, nothing like what we do here in the District of Columbia. I mean, MPD and the folks from Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency are out there every single day of the week. Okay. So, 32 people, 9 teams going out, approximately 150 child sex offenders out of 500 active sex offenders. Paul, there are all different types of people that we call sex offenders. Correct?

Paul Brennan: There are. I mean, you can put them in different types of categories but there are those who rape adults and there are those who expose themselves in public, there are those who molest children. So, we’re cognizant of identifying the type of sex offenders we’re dealing with.

Leonard Sipes: And that becomes the key issue. I mean, either one of you can get into this, but the key issue is that we do a lot of assessment. We try to find out as much about that person as humanly possible because if this person raped a girlfriend and doesn’t have a history of abusing kids, that doesn’t mean he didn’t abuse kids in the past. Just because he had a sex crime against an adult doesn’t mean he’s not a child sex offender. Because they’re a child sex offender does not mean that he didn’t commit predatory crimes against adults or am I wrong? Do they come to us with an MO and ordinarily stick to it?

Paul Brennan: The assumption is that there are other crimes that we need to uncover. We start there and then our process is to identify the total scope of deviant activity that they engaged in over their lifetime and then make an assessment of where their risk may lie. So, it’s common that a sex offender who comes into the criminal justice system has committed a certain type of crime. Those who assume that that is the only type of crime they are likely to commit in the future may be missing a larger component of what their deviancy issues are.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So, they can move from modality to modality, April?

April Cole: Yes, they can. And that’s one reason why it’s so important to get an accurate sexual history of an offender and our assessment really delved deeply into their sexual histories.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And people need to know that we polygraph them. We put GPS tracking devices on them. We put them in treatment and that’s fairly controversial with a lot of people out there as to whether or not the treatment really does anything, but we maintain that it does. We maintain that it teaches, the sexual predisposition doesn’t go away, but what we teach people to do is how to deal with that sexual predisposition in such a way that does not put them in prison for the rest of their lives in such a way to protect innocent victims. Correct?

April Cole: Correct. I’d like to say that we have one of the most proactive, progressive sex offender units in the country.

Leonard Sipes: I agree with that.

April Cole: And our agency has really invested into making sure that we have everything that we need in place to supervise our offenders in the community.

Leonard Sipes: Well, I agree with you that we’re one of the most, and we may be the best, sex offender unit in the country as far as I’m concerned. But one of the things we’ve been talking about recently is the expansion of getting into additional social media sites, the expansion of looking at hand-held computers, what most people call a cell phone or SmartPhone; I call them hand-held computers. My BlackBerry is just as powerful as my desktop was five years ago. So, we’re moving in other directions and so we’re trying to be as comprehensive as we can. We have a fairly small unit, fairly small caseload, but I do believe that your original assertion is correct. I think we’re one of the best, if not the best, sex offender units in the country, but what does that mean? So, we have one of the better sex offender units in the country. Paul, does that mean there are fewer victims?

Paul Brennan: It should mean that we’re able to prevent further victimization that otherwise might have occurred had we not put in place some of the counter-measures that we do. So, it’s our belief that supervision has a powerful component in protecting community safety.

Leonard Sipes: We’re halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guests. Paul Brennan is a supervisory community supervision officer and April Cole is another supervisory community supervision officer. These two individuals head up two of the three teams that we have here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency regarding sex offenders. There are three teams, 500 active offenders. There are more offenders than that, but they are in mental institutions or they’re in prison but they’re still on our caseload. And so we’re talking about on Halloween 150 of them who have had histories of child sex abuse or have given us any indication that they’ve had in the past a history of child sex abuse. Either one of you can answer this question and the people listening to this program, and we get a lot of college students who are studying criminal justice, criminology, or sociology, or psychology; we do a lot of college students, 200,000 requests on a monthly basis. They’re hearing this and they’re hearing sex offender and they’re going, oh my God. They have visions of Hannibal Lecter. Every stereotype on the face of the earth is flowing through their minds, but there’s nothing about a sex offender that sets them out to be any different from anybody else. Correct? I mean, they’re just, they look normal. There’s nothing there, I mean, certainly there are no horns, certainly there’s no blood dripping out of the teeth. You know what I mean. I’m trying to get to who these people really are. Paul?

Paul Brennan: They’re the people that you may interact with every day and not know that they have issues with sexual deviancy. These are people who have jobs in many cases. Some of these guys are the homeless people you see on the streets. So, there’s a wide array of individuals who commit sex offenses; some of whom are never caught. So, they can look like anybody. They can be somebody that you know and trust the most. So, you should always keep in the back of your mind that a sex offender has no particular profile that you can identify by walking down the street.

Leonard Sipes: And I think we’ve learned that from the members of religious orders who have been convicted or accused of child sex offenses, so they can be some awfully respectable individuals on the outside. Correct?

Paul Brennan: The vast majority of offenders that we deal have been victimized by someone that they know. So, I mean, that tells you something. It tells you that these are people that typically are trusted. So, many are within the family; boyfriends, people that coach or teach and have violated a certain trust and those are the cases that we typically are dealing with. The guys that jump out of the bushes, drag women off the jogging path; those are the exceptions. We have plenty of those, but those are not the primary group of people that we supervise.

Leonard Sipes: So, for the parents who are listening to this program, it is not necessarily stranger/danger. It is more the people who they know and who the child knows. April?

April Cole: I think we’ve seen a little bit of it all on our teams. We’ve had the pastors, the ministers, the doctors, the priest, coaches, teachers, all walks, professions, attorneys.

Leonard Sipes: It runs the gamut.

April Cole: It runs the entire gamut. But when you’re talking about child sexual abuse, a lot of the time, as Paul says, that we need to be looking at our family members. Those who have close association and ties with children are the ones that we’re finding are committing these kinds of criminal acts against children. So, the uncles, the grandfathers; sex offenders don’t look any particular kind of way. They look like me and you.

Leonard Sipes: That’s my point; that’s my point. That’s my point. And one of the things that we came up with in the state of Maryland was that the most important thing you can do, because parents are listening to this and saying, fine, this is all interesting; tell me how to protect my child. And we’re saying, child, we’re talking about basically anybody under the age of 18 and anywhere from crawling to age 18. And what we say to them is that you have to have a loving, open relationship with your children and your children should feel comfortable in terms of coming to you at any time for any reason and, if somebody makes them feel uncomfortable, that relationship should be there to the point where they come and tell you that this individual is making them uncomfortable, that that’s the best thing you can do to protect your child and let your child know that it doesn’t matter who makes you feel uncomfortable, whether it’s Uncle Fred, the guy who lives down the street and walks by with his dog; it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a family member or outside the family. You have that relationship with your child that that child can come to you and tell you that that child feels uncomfortable because it’s not that initial contact. It is a series of steps that the child sex offender takes to gain the trust of the victim and to victimize. Correct?

Paul Brennan: Here’s what I would tell parents is that your child may be the victim of sexual abuse. They may not tell you despite having the relationship you described. That what parents need to look for are what we call grooming behaviors. Those are the ways in which sex offenders gain access to children, break down their defenses that you have instilled in them and those are some of the things that parents need to pay attention to.

Leonard Sipes: Explain grooming behaviors.

Paul Brennan: Grooming behaviors: Buying kids candy, taking them on outings, teaching them how to work on the computer, things like that are efforts by a sex offender to gain trust in the child. Those are things the parents need to look for.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Paul Brennan: Also, remember that sex offenders are going to target kids that seem isolated from others, those who may be shy or have some self-esteem issues. They’re going to target the kids they think they can molest and nobody will believe or the child is less likely to confide in another adult or another person. Many of the cases that we see are not because the child disclosed to the parent. They disclosed to a teacher, another child, those types of situations. Oftentimes, the abuse isn’t uncovered until there is a rift between the sex offender and the child. So, the child gets upset at the sex offender and then decides to disclose after a period of time. So, the dynamics are perhaps more complicated than just teaching your child to tell me when you’ve been molested.

Leonard Sipes: Well, no, no, no. Tell me when you’re uncomfortable.

April Cole: Well, I think

Leonard Sipes: If somebody makes you feel uncomfortable, I mean, what you’ve described makes perfect sense, Paul, but at the same time, how does the parent, you can’t mistrust every human being that comes into contact with the child just because they’re involved in behavior that could be considered grooming.

April Cole: I think one of the important things you said here was let me know when a person doesn’t make you feel comfortable. Well, the sex offender’s whole goal and what they’re really good at is making that child feel comfortable. I don’t know of many cases when a child comes and says, Uncle Larry makes me uncomfortable. That’s their goal; that’s what they’re good at.

Leonard Sipes: Well, you two are giving me an education here and a much more precise education. Continue, April.

April Cole: And for parents, I think that this is a conversation that you have to have over a period of time with their children. This is not a one time conversation.

Leonard Sipes: Amen.

April Cole: This is a conversation that you have to be having daily and weekly with their children over a long period of time. And 13 or 14 isn’t the time when you stop having these conversations. That’s when you really

Leonard Sipes: Amen. Yep.

Paul Brennan: That’s really when they’re at most risk.

Leonard Sipes: That’s when you need to step it up.

Paul Brennan: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: But children are, look, I had two daughters. When they were 14, boy, they’re hard to read. They’re hard to read about, hi, honey, how are you today? Fine. I mean, when they get into that sort of interaction with parents, they’re impossible to read. How do you read them?

Paul Brennan: Well, when they get older, the computer’s a good place to look at what is going on in the life of your child. So, oftentimes, nowadays in particular, if a sex offender is grooming a child, there’s probably going to be some social networking activity that will give you an idea that they’re chatting with somebody who perhaps they shouldn’t.

Leonard Sipes: Uh-huh.

Paul Brennan: Texting: They may be getting text messages from the sex offender, so you may need to pay attention to some of the means by which the sex offender is gaining access to the child in today’s world.

Leonard Sipes: We’re into the final minutes of the program with Paul Brennan and April Cole, both supervisory community supervision officers with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. What we’re going to be doing is going out on Halloween and there’s 150 sex offenders out of the 500 active. There are more sex offenders than that, but 500 active cases, 150 of those, in terms of 9 teams with the Metropolitan Police Department. We’re going to be going in and we’re going to be looking for any signs; I’m sorry, I never mentioned this. April, we gave them all letters individually and we’ve mailed them to the house as a back-up plan, but we’ve talked to them all individually and we’ve said, no porch lights on. Do not hand out Halloween candy. Do not dress up in costumes. Do not do this. Do not do that. Correct?

April Cole: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And if we go there, you’re two community supervision officers and two members of the Metropolitan Police Department, and that guy is in a clown costume. What happens?

April Cole: Well, if we go in and find candy or lights or a clown costume, we’re going to immediately put some things into place with that offender that night. He’s going to have to change clothes. We’re going to have a conversation with them. The supervisors are going to come in. Depending on that particular offender, he may be going into custody that night.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And I want to remind everybody that unless he’s doing something ostensibly illegal, the folks in the Metropolitan Police Department cannot take action. What we have to do because we have to get authorization to remove the individual, to get a warrant from the parole commission or from a judge and that doesn’t happen instantaneously. Correct? In some cases, it does.

April Cole: In some cases, we’ve been able to get warrants on the same day depending on how egregious the offense is.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

April Cole: Tonight we will probably not be able to do that in most cases. We will definitely take action if we find an offender who is violating his conditions of supervision.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Right. And MPD, they walk in and they see a blunt object that looks like a smoked marijuana cigarette. If they see anything at all that the offender is doing illegal, then they can take action. They can immediately arrest them on the spot.

April Cole: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So, that’s a powerful message and the other thing is what we do with MPD is to jointly supervise, not just sex offenders, but all offenders across the board. They get to know where they are. They understand, they pass on that information to other police officers who are patrolling that district, so all police officers are looking, making sure this individual is compliant. I mean, we see them a minimum of twice a week in many cases depending on how high profile the case is and we call them in and we drug treat them. We go out and make unannounced visits, but the Metropolitan Police Department, those officers are out there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so they’re also looking and making sure that he is “in compliance.”

April Cole: We get phone calls quite frequently from MPD officers. Because we’re out in the community with them, they know our offenders and, when they find our offenders out in violation or participating in questionable behaviors, they pick up the phone and they call us.

Leonard Sipes: Yep.

Paul Brennan: What’s important to note is that we have put our information into NCIC. This is database that the police would access if they stopped somebody.

Leonard Sipes: National Crime Information Center.

Paul Brennan: So, when they stop an individual for whatever reason, they will see when they run this check that they are on supervision and will actually give the officer’s phone number and name and the police will be able to contact us and notify us.

Leonard Sipes: Right. So, that individual could be in Charlottesville, Virginia and yet by going through NCIC they know that the person is under supervision and here is the name and telephone number of the community supervision officer.

Paul Brennan: Right.

Leonard Sipes: That’s pretty powerful.

Paul Brennan: Absolutely.

Leonard Sipes: Well, first of all, I want to thank all of you for doing this. I mean, it’s a really difficult job that you guys have and I think the public who’s hearing this is really grateful for what it is you do and all the three teams do in the District of Columbia and in parole and probation agencies throughout the country because we sort of feel that we have one of the better sex offender units, if not the best, but everybody out there throughout the country is doing their level best in terms of Halloween and throughout the year to supervise sex offenders. Our guests, ladies and gentlemen, are or have been Paul Brennan, a supervisory community supervision officer and April Cole, another supervisory community supervision officer. They will be going out on Halloween Day in terms of 9 teams, two community supervision officers and two MPD officers, and they will be going out, visiting about 150 homes of child sex offenders and we will report back in terms of how well they did that evening. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. We are just flabbergasted with the calls and letters and emails and Twitter messages that you end up giving us. If you have suggestions for the show, compliments, criticisms, you can reach me at or follow me on Twitter, and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, domestic violence, anger management, corrections, high-risk offenders, GPS, women offenders.


Halloween Checks of Child Sex Offenders in Washington, D.C.

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. I think today we have one of the better programs that we’ve ever produced, and one of the more interesting programs we’ve ever produced. This is done in conjunction with the effort on the part of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Court Services and Offender Supervision, the agency to do a public safety endeavor to check on 200 sex offenders, child sex offenders specifically, on Halloween evening. There are 13 teams of individuals from the Metropolitan Police Department and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency Sex Offender Unit that will fan out throughout the city and do residential checks. There are approximately 600 sex offenders in the District of Columbia supervised by us, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, there are three sex offender teams, this is the 4th year of trying to do something special regarding sex offenders. Last year, what we did was to do what we call a mass orientation, we called all of them into one place, and we, MPD were there taking part in that. We have approximately 100 of our sex offenders on GPS, Global Positioning System, so we’ll be doing random checks, I’m sorry, we’re going to be doing extra special checks on GPS correlating their tracks with crimes on Halloween evening, and we’re going to be doing surprise and random checks on everyone else who’s not a child sex offender. At our program and at our microphone today, we have Diane Groomes. Diane is the assistant chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, and we have Trifari Williams. Trifari is a community supervision officer, known most of you throughout the country, as a parole and probation agent in the sex offender, and to Diane and Trifari, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Diane Groomes: Thank you, sir. We’re proud to be here.

Len Sipes: And you know, one of the things we are interested in, Diane, I’m going to call the assistant chief, and I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 40 years, I have a hard time calling the assistant chief Diane, but this is how we’re going to refer to each other throughout the program. Diane, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department is going to be teaming up with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, but you guys are out there dealing with sex offenders, child sex offenders, all the time anyway!

Diane Groomes: Well, what makes this very important to us, sir, is as everyone knows, Halloween is a time for children. The children come out with their parents, some children come out without parents, with their friends, to go trick or treating, therefore the threat against them encountering one of our sexual offenders is very high, so I think it’s very important that we take a special time out to go to the houses and check to see where these offenders are and kind of send them the message that we’re watching them.

Len Sipes: One of the things in terms of color background, we sent a letter to all the child sex offenders, and Trifari, this question is going to go over to you, we could have a person who is currently being supervised, and we supervise people out of the prison system or placed on probation, there’s 15,000 offenders on any given day in the District of Columbia that we supervise. Now we, that person could be supervised for burglary but have a history of child sexual, a child sex related crime 15 years ago, correct?

Trifari Williams: Yes, you’re correct about that. One of the unique things about that, the sex offender unit at CSOSA is that we’re actually responsible for individuals that a) have been convicted of a traditional sex offense, which is also considered their underlying offense, their instant offense, but we also supervise individuals, like you stated, that have had a previous sex offense in the past, might be on supervision for another charge at this point in time, it could also be an individual that’s been convicted of a sex offense in another jurisdiction but is currently residing in the District of Columbia and is under supervision, so therefore, we’re supervising that case as well.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now we sent a letter out to all people who are child sex offenders, and we basically said, you can’t decorate, you can’t participate, and you have to stay home, correct?

Trifari Williams: That is correct. What we did was we actually had those individuals come into our office, review that letter with them, all the conditions on that letter, you cannot have a child in your home, you cannot decorate, you cannot participate in any type of Halloween activities, you cannot have anyone in your residence distributing candy, you cannot have your lights on, we went through a litany of things that they needed to do along with being at home –

Len Sipes: In person?

Trifari Williams: In person.

Len Sipes: One-on-one?

Trifari Williams: Yes. But also, we got them to sign off on those things after we reviewed them. The most important thing is, we told every one of those individuals that you must be at home from the hours of 6PM to 11PM. We did not indicate to them that we would be doing random checks, because if we did, it wouldn’t be random. But we did indicate to them what their responsibility was and what our expectations are of them while they’re on supervision.

Len Sipes: And I think the important thing is that we at MPD, and Diane, I’m going to throw this question over to you, one of the things that always has impressed me, Diane, is that on any given year, we have about 8,000 concurrent home visits between the Metropolitan Police Department and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for high risk offenders. So we go, the team, of CSOSA and MPD goes through the door of these 8,000 individuals throughout the course of the year, so it’s not like this is an unusual thing, or this is a special thing. We do this throughout the course of the year anyway!

Diane Groomes: Right, as you said, we have a wonderful relationship with CSOSA. We have worked many years with them, and we call them accountability tours, we go together, and again, CSOSA’s lead, and again, to have us there kinda sends a message to the offender that D.C. government and the government’s taking this seriously, and a lot of times, we notice great success where the offender keeps on track, then, and we find that it lowers the rate of recidivism if they know that CSOSA and MPD are working together.

Len Sipes: Now I work for the Department of Justice’s Clearinghouse a long time ago, I spent 14 years representing the state of Maryland and the department of public safety, parole and probation was part of that, I have somewhat of a sense as to how parole and probation conducts business, I’m a former cop. The thing that impresses me about the District of Columbia in the five years that I’ve been here is that there’s been a continual effort on the part of the Metropolitan Police Department and CSOSA to interact together. I’m told that every day, intelligence is shared, GPS tracks are shared, we sit down at the district level at the Commander’s level on a regular basis, information is exchanged between the individual officers and the individual community supervision officers everyday. I think that’s impressive, and I also think it’s unusual.

Diane Groomes: Well, as I said, the relationship is wonderful, and it continues to build, and it continues to grow. Our most current partnership does involve our intelligence sharing. When we have, like we did last night, we had 3 murders occur in 2 hours, and our CSOSA partners have already reached out to us to tell us, you know, the history of our victims and maybe some possible relations to kind of help us, guide us on our investigative track. It’s a win-win situation, and as you said, our commanders and our officer level are touched by CSOSA, and we have had great success of reducing crime. I can give this partnership credit that it really helps us fight crime out there.

Len Sipes: But I don’t know if you wanted to comment on that, when I say it’s unusual. I think it’s unusual. Parole and Probation and Law Enforcement traditionally haven’t talked to each other throughout the country, and I find what’s happening in the District of Columbia in the 5 years that I’ve been here, not only unusual, I find it to be intensive at times. I don’t know if you feel that it’s intense enough, or enough information is being shared back and forth, but I’m sort of knocked over by how much information is shared, not just at the command level, but the individual officer level.

Diane Groomes: I agree with you on that, as you said, the criminal justice system is made up of several parts, and usually police have a different goal from the other agencies, so we really appreciate CSOSA coming and really partnering with us, again, the information we share is to reduce crime, reduce recidivism, and also what I appreciate is the long term issues that CSOSA deals with, trying to get offenders jobs, substance treatment, because that is, are the things that lead to crime. So MPD is proud to be part of, you know, a system that is for a long-term approach vs. just a short term fix.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I find, when I came here to the district 5 years ago, I was flabbergasted by the level of interaction between Parole and Probation and Law Enforcement, and that level has increased dramatically lately in the state of Maryland, and I find it happening increasingly throughout the country, but it was just, when I came here to the District of Columbia, it was like, wow! This is really unusual all the conversation taking place. Trifari, we’re going to go over to you. You know, you’ve been 5 years at CSOSA as a community supervision officer, and you’ve spend the last year within the sex offender unit. Supervising Sex Offenders, and you and I had a radio show a long time ago talking about, you know, supervising offenders. Sex offenders are sometimes more difficult to deal with than the average offender, because they seem to comply all the time, where a lot of other offenders are basically saying, ah, I’m not going to go for drug treatment, or I’m not going to show up for drug testing, or whatever it is, sex offenders, generally speaking, dot every ‘i’, cross every ‘t’ and that’s what makes it really interesting and tough in terms of supervising them, correct?

Trifari Williams: Yes, it can be. One of the things that, in my experience, I’ve realized while working with these sex offenders, it’s very similar to what you’re saying. There’s a number of situations in which individuals are more compliant, they’re more willing to work with the community supervision officer, which is to their benefit, but one of the things that we set up, and they understand as a part of working with the sex offender unit is, is that we take what is considered a collaborative approach when supervising sex offenders. All of our sex offenders that it’s also, not only a partnership that we have with MPD, we also have a partnership with the treatment providers that provide sex offender treatment, along with the polygraphers that we use –

Len Sipes: Polygraph operators.

Trifari Williams: Yes.

Len Sipes: Lie detector tests.

Trifari Williams: Right. And it’s all used as a complete system. If I can give you a quick example,

Len Sipes: Yeah, please!

Trifari Williams: If you take the average offender, we want to look at it as a sense of a triangle, the offender is innocent, or the supervision officer is at the top of it, on one side of that is the treatment provider, on the opposite side of that is the polygrapher or the polygraph examiner. We place that person inside of that triangle because the expectation is that, when we have an individual that is a sex offender, we want the community to understand that there is close supervision that’s done. There is a partnership that has been developed with MPD, of course, in which we share information, what you were talking about earlier, but there’s a strong information sharing that we have between the sex offender treatment provider and the polygrapher. What we try, what we do, actually, with that is, at any point in time that one of these individuals does something that, what you would consider out of the ordinary, they’re missing their appointment, they’re not participating in treatment, they’re using drugs, that information is shared between those three entities immediately.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Trifari Williams: Take a classic example, I had an individual, not saying any names, of course, but he missed an appointment last week with his sex offender treatment provider. By that evening, I had already gotten a fax from the treatment provider notifying me of that individual’s missed appointment, which automatically prompts me to implement sanctions in regard to his non-compliance –

Len Sipes: And when we’re talking about sanctions, we mean we bring them to read them the riot act, he’s got to start coming in every day, he’s got to go to a litter detail, there’s some punishment which is immediate for any action that’s not appropriate.

Trifari Williams: Right, correct. And we do those things, and it helps them to understand that the level of compliance that we expect from them, they must follow through with it, and I think that’s the biggest thing is why you will see the individuals in a sex offender unit that tend to be a little bit more compliant, because they know that there’s so much information sharing going on between that treatment provider, between the supervision officer, and one of the things that Ms. Groomes was just talking about, we’re out weekly at these commanders’ meetings sharing information about the recently released sex offenders that we have in the community, any point of time that we have anybody that we feel is considered a high risk, we’re sharing that information, so they see this partnership –

Len Sipes: They see the team, they see the fact that the treatment providers, lie detector operators, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, so they understand that there’s a certain point where, if they screw up, they’re going to be caught, and they’re going to be sent back to prison.

Trifari Williams: Correct.

Len Sipes: And I think that’s the impressive thing. We will do everything we possibly can in terms of helping that person through the treatment process, but that person needs to understand that if he violates public safety in any way, shape, or form, he’s probably going to go back to prison.

Trifari Williams: Right, and totally understanding that, because that information sharing is there, and one of the unique things about this agency, as you know, is the amount of emphasis that we put on assisting these individuals. We spend countless amounts, hundreds of thousands of dollars in putting these individuals through treatment, trying to assist them in addressing their issues and making them more productive members of society. That helps to reduce recidivism inside of the District of Columbia, and it’s one of the most impressive things, and one of the things that I find is very unique is the amount of resources that we’ve actually just committed to these individuals.

Len Sipes: Tens of millions of dollars. Diane, one of the things that I did, I interviewed a variety of people from the Metropolitan Police Department for an article that I’m doing for a national publication on GPS or Global Positioning System or Satellite Tracking, and so I was interviewing an officer from Northeast D.C. who was a 7 year veteran, and he tells me that he suddenly started seeing people on the street with these cell phones strapped to their legs, and then we got together, and he took a course from CSOSA on the use of GPS, and he said something that’s extraordinarily interesting, that this is at the officer level, that he now exchanges information on a regular basis because he can look up that person and who supervises that person via the computer in his car, the vehicle. He can find the community supervision officer, talk to that individual directly, either by email or by phone, and the exchange information back and forth, so the individual officers of the Metropolitan Police Department evidently are, and GPS was one example of this, are now exchanging information with the individual officers in CSOSA, and I said to him, is this, now you’re a 7 year veteran, and you’re obviously computer savvy, and is this just you, or do you think the average officers out there recognize the partnership and see the value of the partnership and exchanging information, and he tells me that the average officer is more than ever before exchanging information with average officers at CSOSA. I find that profoundly interesting.

Diane Groomes: You’re correct on that. Everyone should realize in the police department, you know, our officers are our front line, and our officers right now, they want more information to help reduce crime, help the citizens, you know, reduce the fear of crime, and one of the things that, our biggest request right now, as you said, due to the GPS system and tracking, our officers, and as a huge percentage, and it’s growing every day, is the Veritrack[sp?] system, and our officers are going on their laptops, and when they hear, they take crimes personal, so when a robbery spree occurs, or if a shooting occurs, of course, sometimes you figure, they have an idea who could have done it, they now log into their computer and try to track, you know, those offenders that they know to see if they were in the area, then they communicate also with their CSOSA rep and tell them about, if they had an encounter with the offender, positive or negative, so again, it’s just, it’s a win-win situation where, you know, working with CSOSA, we can definitely address those offenders that are not doing so well, and then address also those offenders that are doing well, so it also saves us time where we can focus on those that need focused on the most.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program, and it’s going rapid-fire. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. public safety. Diane Groomes, assistant chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, is by our microphones, and Trifari Williams, a community supervision officer with the sex offender unit, Trifari has been with CSOSA for the last 5 years, and we’re talking about Halloween evening, and a brief commercial that we respond to every inquiry, every suggestion that you provide to us, we respond to them, we take them all into consideration, if you go to media.csosa – C-S-O-S-A – .gov, or simply search for DC Public Safety, we appreciate your comments, we appreciate everything that you’ve been doing in terms of the comments and guiding us on the program, we are now well over 100,000 requests on a monthly basis for the program, we are now way beyond 1,300,000 requests since the inception of the program in January of 2007, so please keep your comments rolling in, so again, back to our microphones, Diane, or back to our guest, Diane Groomes and Trifari Williams. You know, Trifari, when we go, when we talk about what we’re going to be doing Halloween evening, we’re going to be sending out 13 teams, Metropolitan Police Department and ourselves, there are going to be 13 teams of individuals, we’re going to go to the homes of approximately, it’s a little bit less than this, 200 child sex offenders, we sent them a letter and sat down with the and told them what they can do, what they can’t do, this is our 4th year of looking at child sex offenders, but nothing this extensive, so you’re going to go out with Metropolitan Police Department on Halloween Evening, what do you expect to find?

Trifari Williams: The expectation at this point in time is since we’ve instructed all of these individuals as to what they should be doing, what our hope is, is that they would be compliant with their release conditions. When we go into these residences, one of the first things we’re going to be looking for, of course, we’re going to be going through every room making sure that there are no minors in the home. We’re going to make sure –

Len Sipes: So you go through the entire house.

Trifari Williams: Yes we do.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Trifari Williams: That’s one of the important things, because we want to make sure that they’re compliant with these conditions, and also, make sure that there’s nobody actually being placed in any type of danger. I mean, that’s the whole point –

Len Sipes: You even have the right to go into their computer!

Trifari Williams: Yes, we do. One of the interesting things about being a part of this unit is a lot of times, several individuals, most individuals actually have conditions that basically dictate what they’re supposed to do while they’re on supervision. One of those conditions can be a computer search condition, and with that condition, we actually go out, we will install software on the individual’s computer, and one of the things I do want to emphasize, it doesn’t only mean computers, I mean, now in the days of technology, cell phones, cell phones can be computers as well, so we also look at cell phones, make sure that they don’t have any type of pornographic material on there, we’re also looking at the searches that they’re doing on the internet, looking at their IM chats, things of that nature, so we’re actually going out investigating, truly getting into figuring out, what is this person actually doing?

Len Sipes: I mean, it gets a little, all of those, for me the child sex offender concept, I don’t think it’s frightening, but I think some people out there, I mean, we’re putting them on Global Positioning System, we have the right to look into their computer, their cell phone, we can search, in fact, their computer remotely. We don’t even have to be within the home. We go into the home, we search the house for any activities, that’s quite a bit of leeway, and to me, it’s comforting in terms of the kind of offender we’re dealing with, in terms of a history of child sex offenses. So you’re going to be going into that home that night, searching the home, looking for any connection between, inappropriate connection between him and children, or any connection between him and children.

Trifari Williams: Yes, you’re going to be looking for any indications in which they may have items in the home that may indicate that a child has either previously been there, or that a child actually resides in that home. You want to make sure that you document all of that, that information, and we’re going to have, of course, MPD with us if there’s any indications that there has been a child in the home for us to further investigate it.

Len Sipes: Now one of the things that I want to touch upon. We are a law enforcement agency, but we do not have direct law enforcement powers. We enforce the orders of the parole commission, and we enforce the orders of the court. So we can tell them that they cannot decorate for Halloween. If they decorate for Halloween, then we have to go back to the courts, and we have to go back to the parole commission, and we have to say, okay, we think that this person is violating, let’s consider whether he’s on probation, putting him in prison, or if he’s on parole, putting him back in prison. If it’s a violation of the law, however, if we walk into the home of a child sex offender, and obviously he has an illegal firearm, if he has drugs, if he is in the process of doing something that is illegal, then we can arrest.

Diane Groomes: Right, and that’s the benefit of having MPD along with CSOSA. Anything in plain view, any contraband, they are subject to arrest on the spot. And one of the most successful stories about an accountability tour with CSOSA, and I think it occurred, it was about 2 years ago, they did a basic accountability tour, and when they entered, all of the sudden, they’ve seen a bunch of people run out of the apartment, and what we found was they were cooking a huge kilo of crack cocaine. MPD was able to chase down the subjects, place them under arrest, but just a basic check led to a huge seizure of crack cocaine off the streets and multiple arrests.

Len Sipes: And I think, once again, it is, and I’m probably going to be repeating myself to death, and so I’ll hopefully say it for the last time. That, to me, is the amazing power. We live in a world where, and this is Department of Justice data, where the average person on community supervision comes into contact, the average person on community supervision comes into contact with a parole and probation agency 3 times a month or less. We’re talking about 80%, 3 times a month or less. So in essence, 99% of the time, that person is unsupervised. That person, the amount of contact you have with that individual is just brief, 5-10 minutes. You know, law enforcement, ordinarily, is not involved. Here, we go to the individual’s house on a surprise basis, and some cases, it’s not a surprise, in some cases, we want to talk to the mother, or we want to talk to the wife, we want to talk to the people he lives with, because sometimes they can supply us with great information, but that’s an immense amount of contact, and that sends a message to that offender of, it’s just not CSOSA, it is MPD, and that person’s going to spread the word to his or her fellow officers in the area that here is a child sex offender, or here is a burglar, or here is a person convicted of robbery, and he’s living at this house, and here are the circumstances. I think that, to me, it’s just immensely powerful and sends an immensely powerful message.

Diane Groomes: I agree with you, and what we’ve been doing, too, especially over the summer, when we have our all hands on deck, CSOSA also joins us with that. When we actually walk the neighborhoods, not necessarily going to even the homes, CSOSA has joined us just walking certain neighborhoods where there is a large population of ex-offenders, and I think it sends a message, again, that we have a partnership in that, you know, we’re going to work together to combat any additional crime that can be committed.

Len Sipes: All right, so to follow up, we do have articles talking about the relationship between the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and the Metropolitan Police Department, again, they are on the podcasting website, or the radio/television transcript/blog at if you’re interested in additional articles about the interagency activity between CSOSA and our friends in the Metropolitan Police Department, all these articles have been printed by national publications. Anything else we want to say in terms of wrapping up for Halloween? We’re going to provide some additional information in terms of what happened that evening later on that evening, we’re going to be out between 6:00 and 9:00, but we’re not held to those times, we’ll go later if necessary. Anything additional, Diane?

Diane Groomes: Well, I believe it’s not just a message to these sexual offenders or ex-offenders, it’s a message to the community in whole. In D.C., they’re extremely happy to see that the criminal justice system, CSOSA, and MPD are taking an extra step, making them feel safer, and that, you know, we are working together, so I think it’s not only dealing with the offender, but it also addresses the community at whole that has that fear that criminals are on the loose, or if there are parents, just think how much we could be putting them at ease to know that we’re going to be watching these sex offenders.

Len Sipes: Right. And we didn’t make an announcement or pre-announcement beforehand, Trifari, because we didn’t want to interfere with the integrity of the operation.

Trifari Williams: Yes. One of the things we find is very important when we’re doing these unannounced accountability tours is we want these individuals to always be able to understand that we’re going to be out, we’re monitoring them, the partnership is there, and I’d like to piggyback a bit on what assistant chief Groomes just said, one of the things that we find as going out to the PSA meetings, the Patrol Service Area meetings, when we meet with members of the community is they greatly appreciate our presence. They greatly appreciate, they understand that all the work that MPD is doing, but they appreciate the partnership, they appreciate the fact that we’re out there, working with MPD, to help assure them that we’re doing everything we possibly can to make them feel safe, and it’s one of the things that they always comment about when, at the end of those meetings as well.

Len Sipes: Yep. I think the public expects, and I still say it’s a bit unusual for the District, but the public expects us to work hand in hand, and MPD is going to be taking the lead, needless to say, on crime control efforts in the District of Columbia, but we’re happy to be along, we’re happy to be of assistance, and we feel that we can play a tremendous role in the public safety. Just want to remind everybody listening that, yes, we’re going to be doing accountability tours for child sex offenders on Halloween evening for approximately 200 child sex offenders, but we do this 8,000 times, 8,000 individuals throughout the course of the regular year. MPD and CSOSA are out there, and I just think that’s a wonderful partnership. Diane Groomes, assistant chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department has been at our microphones, and Trifari Williams, a community supervision officer with the sex offender unit, is also at our microphones. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been, or it still is D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes, please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, domestic violence, anger management, corrections, high-risk offenders, GPS, women offenders.


Using GPS to Supervise and Assist Criminal Offenders

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– Video begins –

Len Sipes: Hi everybody, welcome to DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. Today’s program is extraordinarily interesting. It’s about satellite tracking of offenders, or global positioning systems, or GPS tracking of offenders. We have two new pieces of research from New Jersey and Florida that basically state that individuals under satellite tracking do better than those who don’t. So in our first half of the program, we have Zahid Mohammed and Brandy Johnson, two individuals who are currently under the supervision of my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and in the second, we’ll have Paul Brennan and Carlton Butler, two individuals who are involved in supervising people under GPS for, again, Court Services and Offender Supervision, and with that introduction, we go to Zahid and to Brandy. First of all, thank you both for being on the program. I think it is extraordinarily important for the public to hear from people, not just me, and not just the experts, but the people who are actually being supervised, to give your perspective about satellite tracking or GPS tracking, and Brandy, the first question goes to you, what was it like being under satellite and GPS tracking? What did it mean to you on a day to day basis?

Brandy Johnson: Well, when I first got on the GPS, I didn’t like it at all. I felt like, okay, I didn’t have any freedom to do anything, but at the same time, I felt like it was better than being in prison. Now that I’m older and matured some, the second time I was on GPS, I complied, you know, they gave me a curfew, I didn’t, I complied with my curfew or anything, got me a job, so –

Len Sipes: You’re doing well now, you’re in your own apartment, and you’re working –

Brandy Johnson: I’m doing good, I’m working.

Len Sipes: You’re paying taxes.

Brandy Johnson: Paying taxes.

Len Sipes: You’re not a tax burden; you’re a taxpayer, that’s what we like.

Brandy Johnson: Right, and basically, like I said, the GPS is good now, back then I didn’t, but now I feel like it’s good, because different reasons, you know, you have people that come up missing, you know, you can easily find them on tracking device, you have people that, basically –

Len Sipes: If they suspect you of being involved with a crime, and the GPS unit shows that you’re home, it’ll, it protects you at the same time.

Brandy Johnson: Right, and that’s what I’m about to say, also that, if they try to say you’re somewhere, you have the GPS to back up for you, actually the GPS is very good in a lot of different situations.

Len Sipes: Zahid, we’re going to go over to you now. I’ve talked to dozens of offenders who have essentially said, “I’m on the corner, and somebody comes along and tries to get me involved in drugs or tries to get me involve in crime”, and they pull up their pants leg, and they see this device in their pants leg, and the other guys basically say, “Okay, I understand, forget it, I don’t want you involved in this.” Is that a reality, or is that a myth?

Zahid Mohammed: It’s a reality to an extent. We have some friends that will come along, and they will see that you’re back home, and they would like to have you hang out with them, but we’re under supervision, there are certain things that we can and cannot do. If we show them the device, some of them will say, “Man, I don’t care about that.” Others will say, “Look, just go on and do your thing, and I’ll do my thing.”

Len Sipes: It almost acts as an excuse to keep you out of trouble at times.

Zahid Mohammed: Definitely, definitely, because there have been some incidents in my history where crimes have happened here in the neighborhood, but the officers and things, they knew where I was at, so I didn’t have to go through the hassle of being talked to, talked down to, and all that, because they knew where I was.

Len Sipes: It keeps you free and clear of suspicion.

Zahid Mohammed: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And you’re doing well as well, Zahid. You’ve been involved with –

Zahid Mohammed: I’ve got my own place.

Len Sipes: You work, and you’ve got your own place? You’ve been involved in some programs –

Zahid Mohammed: Yes, I’m in therapy programs, where I talk to a therapist, you know, and they’ve kept me on an even keel so I don’t start no negative thinking, you know, and backsliding, but also the GPS helps that, because, you know, if anything would pop into my mind about doing something wrong, I can always say, well, they would know where I’m at, you see, so I’m not going to do anything, because they can track me down.

Len Sipes: And you know, you’re both out of the prison system, because GPS is one ingredient in terms of all of this, you know, Zahid, you talked about programs, and how the program helped you out. You know, the GPS is just one piece of an overall puzzle, one piece of an overall plan. You have to supervise people, you have to hold individuals accountable who are under supervision, but the programs, drug treatment, mental health treatment, employment, housing, they help or don’t help. What do you think?

Zahid Mohammed: Well, in my opinion, they help, and I don’t think we have enough of it. There’s always the negative element that tears down the good things that has happened. We don’t hear enough about the people that complete these programs and go on to do better things and become good citizens who pay their taxes and other, we always hear, again, in the news media about the one or two people that mess up, you know, and I think that the more programs that we have for the offenders, the better it will be for society as a whole.

Len Sipes: You know it seems like a good compromise, Brandy, because what GPS does, it says to the public, we’re keeping an eye on you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So we know where you are, and if you’re hanging out at the wrong spot, if you’re breaking curfew, because you were under curfew, correct?

Len Sipes: So it seems like a nice compromise. We know where the individuals are, now give us the programs to help them get across that bridge, because mental health, for instance, there’s a survey that says 50% of offenders coming out of the prison system have mental health problems. Obviously, they’re going to need assistance. Brandy?

Brandy Johnson: Yeah, okay. I feel like, being an offender, coming out of prison, it’s very hard for us to get legit jobs, you know, and I think there needs to be more programs out here for offenders that, as far as like jobs, having contracts with the prisons, that say that, because a lot of jobs where you fill out the applications and stuff, they look, if you’re a felon, if you’re a, even if you’re a misdemeanor, sometimes, and they just turn their back on you, you know, and I think that it’s very hard, prisoners coming out of jail, to get jobs, and I think there should be more programs in terms of trying to assist us to get employment, because, what happens is that it’s hard for us to get employment, of course we’re going to think negative, you know, it’s just, that’s just –

Len Sipes: And I’ve heard that from lots of different offenders. The combination of GPS and programs, do you feel that that’s a powerful combination that would help people to complete supervision successfully?

Brandy Johnson: Yeah, I feel like the GPS –

Len Sipes: We only have a minute left, so –

Brandy Johnson: I feel like the GPS is good, and I feel like more programs, like he said, would be a little better also, but especially more stuff to help you get jobs.

Len Sipes: Okay, Zahid, here we have a couple seconds. A combination of GPS and programs, is it powerful to keep people on an even keel?

Brandy Johnson: I think it’s powerful enough to help them stay on an even keel. I don’t think that it will, it’s not the ultimate. The ultimate comes from the person, because you can have that device on, and you can still mess up.

Len Sipes: We’re playing the odds, aren’t we? What we’re saying is that through GPS tracking and supervision and drug testing and programs, we feel that that will raise the bar, we’ll have a greater impact than if you didn’t have all this stuff.

Brandy Johnson: All that would help. Overall, it does help, but once again, it has to be on the individual, because who says you’ve got to go take urines, you know, who says you can’t easily cut that off, you have some people that think out there, and the people that do want help, yeah, it does help.

Len Sipes: Right, and that always seems to be the case. It’s an individual decision, regardless of whether it’s domestic violence, regardless of whether it’s drugs, or what your background is, is that, somebody said, you know, be there for us, be ready for us when we’re ready to make that change.

Brandy Johnson: Right.

Len Sipes: Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much, that’s our first segment for DC public safety, and our discussion about GPS tracking of offenders, we’re going to be talking to Paul Brennan and Carlton Butler, two individuals who are involved in the supervision of offenders on GPS. Stay right with us, we’ll be right back.

[music playing]

Len Sipes: Hi, welcome back to DC public safety, I continue to be your host, Len Sipes. We have two individuals who supervise people under GPS tracking every single day: Carlton Butler, and Paul Brennan, and to Carlton and Paul, welcome back to the second half of the program for DC public safety on our show on global positioning tracking, satellite tracking of offenders. Carlton, we’ll go with you, first. Now you’re the person in charge of the electronics, being sure that everybody is hooked up, and how it all works, and so you’re the person who sort of shepherds the GPS program through, and this is what offenders wear on a day to day basis. This is a GPS tracking device. Describe this. What is this? What’s contained in this?

Carlton Butler: That’s correct, Len. This device is referred to as a blue tag device, that’s the name of it, and it’s considered to be the one piece technology, and pretty much what it’s, how it’s designed is, it tracks an offender who’s in the GPS program by way of 27 satellites that’s in the sky.

Len Sipes: So every day, there are 27 satellites circling the sky, and what this is, is this hooks up with about 2 or 3 of them, and we can actually know where that individual is at any given time, correct?

Carlton Butler: That’s correct. The device is designed to get a position on the offender every minute, and then it uploads that information every 10 minutes, and turn it into real time information that can be used by the law enforcement partners or the supervising agent.

Len Sipes: And Paul, quickly, going over to you, now you are a person in charge of the special supervision unit, we have GPS tracking on violent offenders, people coming out of the prison system who we feel is going to hurt another person, a person under supervision who is screwing up, for lack of a better description, what we call an intermediate sanction, where we basically say, okay, because you’re not going to drug treatment, or you’re not reporting as ordered, we’re going to put this on you for a certain amount of time, and we’re going to restrict you to your house, we’re going to restrict you to your neighborhood, we’re going to restrict you to a certain part of the city, there’s all sorts of things that we can do with this. What does this mean to you as a supervisor in terms of dealing with these special populations?

Paul Brennan: Well, this technology offers us alternative solutions to problems that we had difficulty solving before. This does allow us to impose immediate sanctions, and the term immediate means literally we can get an offender placed on a GPS bracelet with a curfew within a very short period of time by sending them down to Carlton Butler’s office. That has a great impact, because then the offender feels that sanction much quicker, and they can relate it to the behavior.

Len Sipes: But that’s the key behind, I mean, offenders bring an array of problems to any supervisor. In 20 years of working with offenders, I’ve never come across an offender who was perfect. They bring an array of problems. This is a good solution to the problems that they present, because this gets us enough options, does it not? Again, restricting them to their house, restricting them to a job and a house, restricting them to a certain part of the city, it’s restricting them to not being able to be around playgrounds, for domestic violence offenders, you’re tracked a mile from the person who you victimized. I mean, there are all sorts of great opportunities with this scope of device.

Paul Brennan: Well, it does solve problems such as enforcing difficult conditions, such as stay away from particular areas or people. In the olden days, that was difficult to manage. We would literally wait for a call from the victim that the person has violated; this allows us to be more proactive. But it is also more of a deterrent, because the offenders understand we’re watching. It allows us to monitor residences, so we now know where an offender’s staying every night, as opposed to showing up at the house and playing the cat and mouse games that the offenders play with their residency issues.

Len Sipes: And he says, “I want the treatment, but I was messed up because of the bus, and the bus wasn’t there,” and we immediately know that he made no attempt whatsoever. He didn’t leave his house. We know if they’re looking for work, we know if they leave their house, we know if they stopped at the places they said they were seeking work, and we know what time they get home. I had one offender who said he went to church, and I could tell him that he was late to church. I mean, that’s how powerful it is. Carlton, 800 offenders are on global positioning system tracking within the city of Washington D.C. We certainly have the potential to do more, that there are a variety of people in the community, from community leaders, to law enforcement folks who are calling for us to do more offenders than the 800 that we’re currently doing. Let’s get back to this device a little bit, I mean, what’s in this device? It links up with those satellites, it also links up with cellular technology as well, correct?

Paul Brennan: That’s correct. The device, by design, Len, has an antenna on the top of it in here, and then the center part is a cell phone component. It operates pretty much just like your cell phone that you operate, and the under the bottom, there’s a charging unit that requires the offender to charge the device twice a day in order to make sure that we get good signals from the device.

Len Sipes: Now if the offender breaks curfew or goes, say, a sex offender, or a child sex offender, regarding going around a playground, because we can restrict certain areas of the city where he or she can’t go, we can also send him a signal, if necessary, to say, you know, a sort of buzzing sound that tells that offender to contact their community supervision officer, what we call community supervision officers, other people around the country call parole or probation agents, so this can send a message to the offender?

Carlton Butler: That’s correct, Len. We’re able to, via the technology, set up what we call inclusion/exclusion zones. There are zones that, either we want the offender to go to, or a zone we don’t want them to go to. The moment that they do go through those areas, we can have the device, ping the device, where we can send messages, or vibrating or tone, audible noises to the device to let the offender know that’s not an area that we want them to go to. We get an instant alert the moment that they go into any one of those zones, and we’ll also get one in the case of a curfew zones, that they’re late actually getting to the zones.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now, Paul, I understand people say, that’s scary, you’re a big government, and in fact, with the federal government, and we’re doing this in Washington D.C., we’re satellite tracking people. That, to some people, that’s scary. The point that I make is an awful lot of offenders need this to stay on the straight and narrow. As I said to the individuals who I interviewed on the first segment, a lot of guys have told me, they’re on the street corner, they’re offered drugs, they’re offered an opportunity for crime, they pull up their pants leg. People end up in treatment because they can no longer make excuses. They go to drug treatment, they go to employment services, they do what they have to do, because this device is tethered to them, and we have two pieces of research out of New Jersey and Florida that essentially says that there’s lower rates of recidivism in terms of re-arrest and going back to prison, much lower rates of re-arrest and going back to prison per the Florida report. So this device does seem to have the potential to have a significant impact on keeping that person, not just on the straight and narrow, but keeping that person in probate.

Paul Brennan: And I do want to address that. The device is literally a tool. What has the greatest impact is the officers working with the offenders. The tool gives the officers, working with the offender on a day to day basis the information necessary to make critical decisions about treatment or supervision issues that present themselves. This is really, this device give us the intelligence necessary to make better decisions with the offender population.

Len Sipes: But ultimately, it comes down to that relationship between that officer or that supervision officer and –

Paul Brennan: I can tell you this, Len, if all we did was put bracelets on offenders, and nobody watched it, that it would not have any sort of impact. That tells me that the officer’s relationship with the offenders, the information that GPS is giving to the officers is really the impact, and that’s the benefit that I see.

Len Sipes: Carlton, do you agree or disagree with that?

Carlton Butler: I do agree, and not only that, I also have experienced situations where offenders have actually come in and asked their probation officer to be put on GPS.

Len Sipes: Because it allows them that added thing, for lack of a better word, that he believes that this is going to keep him on the straight and narrow.

Carlton Butler: Well, not only that, Len, if there is a situation where the offender wants to confirm that he wasn’t at a certain location, or he wasn’t a part of a particular situation, he’s able to do so through use of the GPS, right.

Len Sipes: Now, I want to talk to you about a piece of research. Years ago, I was a senior specialist for crime prevention for the department of Justice’s clearinghouse, and I remember in covering lots of data about, nuclear power plants, and the new technologies that they were employing for nuclear power plants, and one of the results of these studies was that it was too much technology, that the individual security officers at nuclear power plants were being overwhelmed by all this technology, that they couldn’t keep up with it. We have 800 offenders under our supervision on any given day. I would imagine it is a struggle for our supervision officers, they get, what we call community supervision officers, to access all this data and deal with all this data, it’s got to be a bit overwhelming. Paul, do you want to take a shot at that, or Carlton?

Carlton Butler: I agree that it is a lot to absorb. The good thing about the CSOSA program is that we have two layers of expertise that actually help: the officers to interpret the information. For instance, we have a GPS team that actually interprets the information and advises the probation officer, or CSO as we call them, any time that they have anything that they’d like really to understand what’s going on. In addition to that, we have the 24 hour command center through the company that provides a service –

Len Sipes: Satellite Tracking for People is the company that we currently employ.

Carlton Butler: That’s correct, and they provide 24/7 coverage and they have the ability to alert me if there’s something very serious.

Len Sipes: And we can tell them that we want to format reports in a certain way to make it easier for our supervision personnel to interpret all this data that they’re getting.

Carlton Butler: That’s correct. There are times when they actually interpret what the technology is telling them for the probation officer or CSO officer, and they, in turn, turn that information into what we call a certification letter that can be used to document the events.

Len Sipes: Okay. And they send us, what, emails, the individual officers and supervisors’ emails that this is something that this is something that you need to take a look at?

Carlton Butler: They can do both. They can actually call us, and they can send us emails as well.

Len Sipes: Paul, I don’t want to oversell this technology. What this means, is that for the 800 offenders we currently have under supervision, that community supervision officer has got to come onto their computer that day and take a look at the tracking and interpret that individual’s whereabouts, so if there is missing data, if there’s good data, if he sees a sex offender hanging out at a playground, if the person says I was supposed to go to my educational program and didn’t go. That’s a lot of immediate information. Now think about this: new research in the Department of Justice which just came out says that, in about 80% of the cases in this country of parole and probation, that parole and probation agent sees the person three times a month or less. That’s amazing! Here, we’re talking about every single day! That’s overwhelming.

Paul Brennan: It is, and from an officer’s perspective, the more information you get, the more work you have to do. It entails more verifications, it’s more investigation that needs to be done, and, but that’s a good thing if we’re trying to protect communities, the more information we get from, whether it be collateral contact, family members, treatment providers, and GPS, the better we can do our jobs, and the safer the community’s going to be. So we’re going to have to learn to adjust the technology advances. So that we can process all the information efficiently and be as effective with it as possible.

Len Sipes: Well, the contractor is monitoring 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but the individual officers who we employ don’t. They come in the next day and take a look at this information, correct?

Paul Brennan: Well, it works both ways, it depends on the case, and you know, we’re somewhat flexible in this area, where, if we have a real high risk offender, we may be accessing GPS real time. We may be getting in the car and finding them on the street using GPS real time. For other offenders, we may have them on GPS because we want to verify that they’re seeking employment, it’s not as high a risk case, perhaps, and yet we can review that at a time later.

Len Sipes: Unfortunately, we’re running out of time, a couple minutes, I do just want to make the point that lots of law enforcement agencies have access to this as well, correct? Okay, so everybody’s looking after that offender, and whether or not there are gaps in the supervision so that they can take action as necessary. Carlton, you wanted to say?

Carlton Butler: I just wanted to add that we have a crime scene correlation program.

Len Sipes: Oh, didn’t even mention that.

Carlton Butler: The law enforcement partners throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, and in that program, we actually train police officers in the use of the software, and the software is web accessible, so they can access that web base, I mean, access that website from any computer that has the ability to –

Len Sipes: We can overlay maps of the city, very detailed maps, and sometimes the maps don’t carry the detail, maybe there’s a new playground that’s not on the map, but you go to Google Earth and overlay actual photographs of the entire city, and that will show you a playground that’s not necessarily on that map, and that tells you why that sex offender is hanging out in that area, correct?

Carlton Butler: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: All right, where do we go, just a couple minutes left. I know there are learning problems, we have our own struggles in terms of keeping up with all this technology, we’re getting better and better at that, we know that offenders tried to defeat it, every time they try, we introduce a new countermeasure, because there’s all sorts of electronic countermeasures that they don’t know about. So we’re learning as we go along, but we’re one of the biggest GPS units in the country.

Carlton Butler: We’re the largest, we’re the second largest user in the country.

Len Sipes: Well, the largest for any city.

Carlton Butler: Yes, and definitely in this area, we’re the largest, right.

Len Sipes: Paul, a last thing.

Carlton Butler: What I would like to say is that this has had a great impact on community safety, we’ve been able to solve a number of crimes. For those offenders who weren’t inclined to modify their behavior, by virtue of being on GPS, and they were inclined to commit crimes, we have directly linked them to crimes, arrested them within hours based on GPS.

Len Sipes: And there have been a variety of crimes. One sex offender who violated two children, and we were able to quickly put him at that place at that time and immediately lock him up, I mean the metropolitan police department, so we’re in partnership with police

PS: – It is an exciting area, this is here to stay, and I look forward to the advancements that are made in this area.

Len Sipes: And we’ve got to close, thank you Paul, thank you Carlton, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for watching us on D.C. Public Safety, watch for us next time as we explore another very important aspect of the criminal justice system, you can always go to and take a look at our website, we’re now, according to Government Computer magazine, we’re now one of the top ten websites in the country for radio and television, for any government website, and I thank you for watching, have yourself a very pleasant day.

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