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Sexual Exploitation of Children-DC Public Safety-US Department of Justice

Sexual Exploitation of Children – “DC Public Safety”

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[Video Begins]

Len Sipes:  Hi, everybody.  Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s show is about sexual exploitation of children, and you know what?  It’s really about a rescue mission.  The FBI estimates that on any given day there’s a million pedophiles online looking for your children.  The attorney general, Eric Holder, what he did was to frame a national effort to look at what we can do, what we in the criminal justice system can do, and to look at what you as parents can do.  To discuss this on the first half of the program, we have Francey Hakes.  She is the national coordinator for child exploitation, prevention, and interdiction from the U.S. Department of Justice, and we have Dr. Michael Bourke, chief psychologist for the United States Marshal’s office, and to Francey, and to Michael, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Francey Hakes:  Thank you for having us.

Len Sipes:  All right, did I frame all this issue?  I mean, we have a lot of people, a lot of concern, a lot of individuals involved in exploiting our children.  So can you frame it for me a little bit, Francey?  And can you give me a sense as to the national effort as announced by the attorney general, Eric Holder?

Francey Hakes:  Of course.  Some people have described the sexual exploitation of our children as an epidemic.  I would certainly describe the explosion of child pornography that way.  So last August, the attorney general, Eric Holder, announced our national strategy for child exploitation, prevention, and interdiction.  It’s the first ever national strategy by any government in the world, and it’s certainly our first.  It’s supposed to have three prongs: prevention, deterrence, and interdiction.  What we decided to do is bring together all of the federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, all our prevention partners, all our sex offender management partners, our court partners, and most importantly, our parents and community groups together to bring this effort under one umbrella so that we can fight child sexual exploitation on all fronts.

Len Sipes:  The numbers that I’m talking about, they’re going up dramatically.  The numbers are astounding.  We’re talking about a huge number of individuals trying to violate our kids on a day to day basis, and when I say violate, we’re talking about psychological and physical bondage, are we not?

Francey Hakes:  Unfortunately, the children that are being sexually abused, especially the ones whose images are being traded like baseball cards across the internet, across the world, are being violated in increasingly violent ways, and we’re seeing increasingly younger and younger children being violated that way, and that is the reason that the attorney general and all of our partners decided to get together and start this effort, so that we could do something about it, and our ultimate goal is to eradicate child exploitation ultimately.

Len Sipes:  Michael, you’re the chief psychologist for the United States Marshal’s office.  You are an expert.  You understand these individuals; child sexual predators probably better than anybody else.  Who are they?

Michael Bourke:  Well, for eight years, prior to coming to the Marshal Service, I treated these men in federal prison, and the truth is there isn’t really one mind of a predator, you know, so to speak.  These men come in from all walks of life, they’re from all socioeconomic groups, they’re both genders, frankly, and these men tend not to burn out like other types of offenders do.  So really, when we talk about what is the sex offender, they, they’re folks that are our neighbors; they’re folks that are our coaches and civic leaders in our communities in some cases.  So they, most individuals that offend against children are actually known to those children and some have a very positive relationship in other ways with those children.

Len Sipes:  Well, help me frame it Michael, because on one hand, we have, according to the FBI, a million pedophiles online, and they’re trying to entice these kids into meetings, and they’re trying to entice them to exchange images.  These images are going to haunt them for the rest of their lives.  On the other hand, most sexual exploitations involved people who were known to the victim.  They’re the neighbor.  They’re the uncle.  They’re the coach.  I mean, what do you say to parents?  I mean, the numbers seem to be overwhelming.  What are the chief lessons to be learned here, and what prevention lessons can we put on the table?

Michael Bourke:  Yeah, I think, and Francey may have something to add to this, but from my experience, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online.  They need to be aware of who their friends are online, with whom they’re chatting at night, they should be paying as close attention to those friends as they do if their child’s going to go spend the night at someone’s home, and frankly, a lot of parents are a little intimidated by some of this advanced technology on the internet, children have a lot of access and avenues by which to access the internet, including mobile devices, and parents need to just get a little, get some additional education, and they need to pay attention to what these kids are doing online.  It’s a very dangerous place.

Len Sipes:  They’ve got to be aggressive.  We run, by the way, in this program, we run a commercial about parents intervening with their kids and their online experiences, but the parents need to be aggressive.  Is that the bottom line?  I mean that’s the principal prevention method, if parents are aggressive in terms of what their kids are doing, and keeping an open line of communication, so if that child is approached, he can go to the parent and tell the parent about this experience.  Am I right or wrong?

Michael Bourke:  Yes, I think that’s accurate.  And also that relationship is very important between the parent and child as well.  For the parent to have a relationship with the child where the child feels comfortable coming to the parent and saying, someone attempted to solicit, or asked me to send them a dirty picture.

Len Sipes: Right.

Michael Bourke: or something like that, so that the parent can take action because so much can occur despite parents best efforts…

Len Sipes:   Right.

Michael Bourke: these children can access the internet in a number of locations in a number of ways.

Len Sipes: Right.

Michael Bourke:  so building that relationship and that type of rapport with the child is very important.

Len Sipes:  Francey, you mentioned at the beginning of the program that The Department of Justice, for the first time, is bringing a coordination of effort in terms of parents, in terms of community organizations, in terms of law enforcement, in terms of everybody within the criminal justice system.  What is the bottom line behind that coordination, is it to be a more effective tool for prevention, a more effective tool for apprehension and prosecution?  What is it?

Francey Hakes:  Well, like I said, in the beginning, it’s really three prongs.  There are three main focuses of the national strategy: prevention, deterrence, and interdiction.  Interdiction is traditional law enforcement investigation and prosecution.  I’m a federal prosecutor, and I’ve been prosecuting these cases for 15 years.  That’s obviously very important and will continue to be very important.  But we’re never going to investigate and prosecute our way out of the problem.  The numbers are simply too large.  So deterrence is very important, and that’s where the United States Marshal Service and others, our state and local partners, through their sex offender management and monitoring, they are so key, and one of our best tools is going to be prevention.  We’d rather not have the victims to have to rescue in the first place.  We’d rather the children be empowered to protect themselves.  We’d rather the parents have the tools that they need to know how to protect their children, and so that’s why organizations like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Netsmarts, these organizations give out free materials, they have websites, they give out free materials for parents, teachers, students, and groups to obtain the information that they need to protect themselves online.  It’s not just the parents, it’s not just the students, it’s not just the teachers.  It’s all of those groups, plus our community groups, that need to have the materials necessary to protect themselves, not just online, but in their day to day activities, I think sometimes in this internet world, we’ve become, and Dr. Burke is correct, that children have access to the internet through so many devices now that it’s, sometimes, I think, a little terrifying.  But we also have to remember that the majority of children who are being sexually abused are being abused by those that they know, and so arming them with the knowledge, the empowerment, the understanding of what is right and what’s wrong and what’s okay to tell, who to go to, a trusted adult, those things are very important.

Len Sipes:  Having those age appropriate conversations with the kids, informing them, but not scaring them.

Francey Hakes:  Exactly right.

Len Sipes:  Now, so all these statistics that I mentioned at the beginning of the program, one million pedophiles, and a 914% increase in the number of child prostitution cases,  do we have the capacity to deal with this?  Is the criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local level overwhelmed by this process?  Do we have the wherewithal to deal with this effectively, or are we fighting an uphill battle?

Francey Hakes:  Well I think, sometimes in prosecution, we always used to call it shoveling smoke because it seems like the more you shovel, the more that there is. And I think with respect to child sexual abuse it’s been around for a long time, we hope that we can eradicate it, and where I think, we’ve started well, we’re on a good path.  Are we somewhat overwhelmed?  I think it’s overwhelming.  I don’t think we’re overwhelmed.  There are huge amounts of effort going on at the federal, state, and local level, but the key here is what the national strategy was designed to produce, and that is partnerships, collaboration, and cooperation at all levels of government, including globally.  This has become, of course, an international problem with the advent of the internet.

Len Sipes:  A global issue, right.

Francey Hakes:  It is an absolutely global issue.  And so we’re working with industry on ways to solve the problem.  You probably heard the announcement last week from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Facebook and Microsoft.  Microsoft has invented a new technology called Photo DNA.  They donated it to the National Center.  The National Center, in turn, gave it to Facebook, and Facebook is going to employ this technology throughout their systems which will search for and find known images of child pornography so that they can be eradicated from their systems.

Len Sipes:  Wonderful.  Michael –

Francey Hakes:  So these are things that we have to do to work together and really think creatively between law enforcement, community, and industry.

Len Sipes:  Michael, can we persuade people who are child sex offenders, who are pedophiles, not to get involved in this, or is that drive, that’s going to be with them for the rest of their lives–can the system have an impact on their behavior?  Can we persuade them not to do this–that we’re taking sufficient actions that’s likely for them to get caught, can we persuade them not to do this?

Michael Bourke:  Yeah, it’s a great question, Leonard.  I think the answer is, it’s fairly multifaceted, but the short answer is that there is no cure for pedophilia.  There’s no cure for these fantasies and these drives, per se.  There is, however, for any of these individuals, a possibility of managing that behavior.  This is not something inevitable, this is a choice, these men are responsible for those choices, and women, and we can assist them in doing that with creative external management.  By that, I mean things like the registrations and outpatient treatment programs and things like that.  With proper external management and proper internal management, these men are capable of living a life in which they never harm a child.

Len Sipes:  Right, so treatment does work.  That’s one of the things I did want to get across.  Treatment does work, and we within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, our sex offender agency, we’re going to talk about that with two people involved in that unit on the second half, but treatment does work,  we can really persuade individuals who are on the edge.  The commercial that will run between the first and second half, we’ll talk about ìwhen did you become a child sex predator?î  Obviously, we’re under the opinion that we can persuade people who are on the edge not to do this.  This is wrong; you’re going to get locked up.  We can meaningfully intervene.

Michael Bourke:  Right, well there are individuals that, with those proper things in place, have a choice not to re-offend.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Michael Bourke:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  The final part of it is aggressive prosecution.  We need to go after them in every way shape and form and that’s what we’re trying to do with the federal, state, and local level, is to set up these dummy operations to pretend that you’re the 14 year old, the 13 year old, to monitor whatever it is that we can monitor, and to go after these people and arrest them and prosecute them.  Is that correct?

Francey Hakes:  Well that’s right, and that’s one of the reasons why we place such a high emphasis on technology and training for our law enforcement and for our prosecutors, because this is often a very high-tech crime, and we need a high tech solution, and that’s why we’re working with industry on things like I talked about, the Photo DNA initiative, but there are lots of other tools that law enforcement uses to keep up with the bad guys who are trying to assault our children.  There are very sophisticated groups out there that have banded together to discuss their deviant fantasies and to plan ways to sexually assault children, and we have to find ways to be just as sophisticated to break their encryption, to get into their passwords, to find a way to infiltrate these groups, and we are doing that at the national level in order to make clear to these would-be predators that they have nowhere to hide, and that’s why it’s so important for us to have very strong, firm sentences as well, because that is part of our deterrent prong.

Len Sipes:  Okay, we have one minute.  So through the national effort, for what attorney general Eric Holder announced, the Office of Justice Programs, US Marshals Office, Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, we can look them in the eye and say that we’re gaining ground, that we have the wherewithal to come after you guys.  Stop it.

Francey Hakes:  I think the message is, to the would-be pedophile out there is you’re probably talking to a law enforcement officer, and watch out for the knock at your door.

Len Sipes:  Cool.  Michael?

Michael Bourke:  I agree.  United States Marshal Service has also set up what we call the National Sex Offender Targeting Center.  It’s a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary intel and operational hub.  We’re looking in all corners for these men.  We are going after them when they fail to register, and we’re putting all of our efforts toward this problem.

Len Sipes:  We have to close now.  I really appreciate this stimulating conversation.  Ladies and gentlemen, Francey Hakes, National Coordinator for the Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction from the US Department of Justice, Dr. Michael Bourke, Chief Psychologist for the United States Marshals Office.  Stay with us on the second half of the program as we talk to individual parole and probation agents, what we call community supervision officers, who supervise sex offenders on a day to day basis.  Please stay with us.

[Music Playing]

Len Sipes:  Welcome back to D.C. Public Safety.  I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, and we continue to explore this topic of sexual exploitation of children.  The first half, we talked to two individuals from the Department of Justice, and we framed the numbers, and the numbers are truly staggering, but what does that mean in terms of the local level?  We talked about the importance of partnerships, and we talked about the importance of people at the local level enforcing laws and providing treatment services.  To talk about what it is that we do here within the District of Columbia; we have two principals with us today.  We have Ashley Natoli, a community supervision officer for the sex offender unit of my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Kevin Jones, another community supervision officer for the sex offender unit, and to Ashley and Kevin welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Ashley Natoli:  Thank you.

Kevin Jones:  Thank you for having us.

Len Sipes:  All right, Ashley, give me a sense as to this issue of the sex offender unit.  What is it that we do?  What is it that we do in the District of Columbia that’s unique?

Ashley Natoli:  Well, we supervise offenders who have either been convicted of a sex offense, had an arrest for a sex offense, or an offense that is sexual in nature.  They come to our unit and are supervised in our unit.  There is roughly about 450 active cases in our unit right now, about 670 total of all sex offenders right now.

Len Sipes:  Now, the interesting thing is what we at CSOSA do, and this is different from a lot of parole and probation agencies throughout the country, is that if you’ve had a sexual conviction in the past, not your current charge, but 15 years ago, if you had a sexual conviction, or if you had an arrest, you come to the sex offender unit, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Kevin, I want to talk to you.  This is something that’s intrigued me from the very beginning of my time in corrections, that is, is that so many of the offenders on the sex offender unit are so compliant.  They dress well, they work, they show up on time, they dot their I’s, they cross their T’s, and they give every appearance of people who are compliant vs. other offenders, sometimes it’s pretty obvious that they have issues.  With the sex offender unit, the sex offenders, they can give the impression that nothing’s wrong with me, just spend your time with more troublesome people.  You don’t have to really spend that much amount of time with me, look at me, I do everything right.  Am I in the ballpark?

Kevin Jones:  You’re in the ballpark exactly, Leonard.  These guys are the most compliant guys on our caseloads.  They actually drug test as scheduled, always on appointments, on time.  They’re in the office, they appear to be, have all their ducks in a row.  I think our main focus is, what are you after you leave our office?  So that’s why we use a lot of our safety tactics, are that, we have a lot of collateral contacts with the offenders and the offenders’ families, and we really get to see what kind of guys they are once they leave our office.

Len Sipes:  Now, I guess I shouldn’t brag, but then again, I am the host of the program, and this is our agency, so I am going to brag.  We have one of the best sex offender units in the country, in my opinion, and what I’ve heard that from a lot of people, one of the best sex offender units.  We have very high levels of contact.  We drug test the dickens out of them, we submit them, they have to submit to lie detector tests, polygraphs.  We put them in treatment, sometimes through the treatment process we find out about other things, we search their computers.  We put them under surveillance, if necessary; we work with local law enforcement in terms of joint supervisions.  We go to their home unannounced.  You guys do it, and sometimes with our partners in the Metropolitan Police Department, they’re under a lot of supervision, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what does that do for that person, either one of you?

Kevin Jones:  That person, as we do unscheduled contacts, it kind of keeps them off balance. Again, he has to be held accountable for, if he has no contact with minors, we assure that by doing home visits, and when we’re in home visits, we’re actually looking for things that might kind of be off the beat, maybe a possible toy, things of that nature in someone’s home, and at that point, they’re questioned.

Len Sipes:  Now it’s also extraordinarily difficult, at the same time, with handheld computers, commonly known as smartphones.  I mean, the smartphone that I carry every day is as powerful as a desktop computer five years ago.  You can do anything you want with a smartphone.  So yeah, we have the right to search their computers, but they may not be operating off their computers.  They may be operating off of a portable device, correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  How do you deal with that?

Ashley Natoli:  We look at the smartphones and the handheld devices similar to a computer.  We have the ability to search those just as we would a computer, and in most instances, the offenders will be having these handheld devices as opposed to having a computer,

Len Sipes:  Right. And the other thing that we are aware of too is a lot of the gaming consoles, such as Play Station 3’s, can be manipulated into being a computer as well, so we have to be looking out for a lot more than just a laptop in the home.  We have to be looking into what they’re using as a phone, what they have, and then we’re asking the questions and following up with the searches.  And that becomes the intriguing part of this, because it truly is a cat and mouse game.  Now I don’t want to overplay my hand here.  These individuals, in many cases, are compliant.  You’re supervising them, they are in treatment, treatment does work, you can take individuals, and they can control their impulses.  They don’t necessarily have to be out there offending.  But this is truly the, Dr. Bourke mentioned it in the first half, this is the master psychological game.  It is a psychological game, is it not, of cat and mouse, of looking for nuances of listening to individual little things that may not mean that much to another community supervision officer, but to you, means a lot.  Am I right or wrong?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Kevin Jones:  Yeah, that’s correct.

Ashley Natoli:  A lot of these offenders, they are masters of manipulation and deception, and that’s, in most instances, in a lot of instances, how they ended up offending in the first place, because they have an incredible ability to groom these victims, and they’ve mastered the art of manipulation, and so we have to be aware of that so we aren’t taken advantage of.

Len Sipes:  Well, tell me a little bit about the grooming of the victims, because we didn’t get involved in that in the first half.  They will go online with them, and they will have, not just hours of conversations, but days or weeks or months of conversation before they ask for a photograph, or then that photograph moves on to a more sexually suggestive photograph.  This is a process.  They’re very patient individuals.  Correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.  A lot of the guys that are in the grooming process while on sex offender treatment, a lot of that comes out in the treatment process, and once you find out that a guy might be on supervision, an offender might be on supervision for one offense, during that sex offender treatment process, you will find out that this offender has had multiple victims that he has proposed and that he has groomed, and this makes this offender a little more dangerous than what, from the outside, what it looks like to just this one victim.

Len Sipes:  And again, I mean, the idea of going in unannounced, putting on a GPS tracking device, but all of that, we talk about the technology, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself with the technology, it strikes me, the most important ingredient we have here in terms of protecting the public is the savviness of the people who are supervising these sex offenders.  Do I have it right?  It really doesn’t matter about the computer part, the GPS, and the tracking devices, and the lie detector tests, what really matters is your ability to read the tea leaves as to whether or not this person is truly compliant or not.  Am I right or wrong?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.  You have to be very patient and very thorough and leave no detail unturned.  Like with the GPS, we’re not just looking at, are they complying with their curfew, are they charging their device, we’re looking at, where are they going during the daytime.  So you actually look at all their tracks so you can know, did this offender go to the park, or was this offender near a school, so we’re aware of that, and we can put alerts on there so it helps us to identify that, but we have all this information, and if we’re not doing the right thing with it, then

Len Sipes:  And the neat thing about it is we can overlay Google Earth, so we’re taking a look at that intersection, and we’re not quite sure he’s hanging out at the intersection, but when we overlay Google Earth, a-ha, there’s a playground that didn’t show up on a regular map.  So we do have the technology tools to try and keep up with the individuals, but it’s really is more understanding who that person is.  How long does it take until you get a sense as to that sex offender?  How long does it take before you feel that you’re inside that person’s head, that person’s mind, that person’s modus operandi?

Kevin Jones:  Well, again, with the treatment modal-, coupled with the GPS, you can probably feel your offender out, I guess, in about two months, maybe, to that nature, and a lot of it is, you’re questioning his every move, which makes him uncomfortable, which is, at the same time, holds him accountable for where he’s going, so as long as he’s knows that he’s being tracked, and that we have exclusion zones from the zoo, from parks, and things of that nature, then that kind of keeps him in compliance.

Len Sipes:  And we’ll get word from the Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement partners that we saw the guy spending way too much time outside of the St. Francis School.  It was a block away, and maybe he has a legitimate reason for being there, maybe he doesn’t, but that’s also the law enforcement partnership feeding us information, right?

Kevin Jones:  Yes.

Ashley Natoli:  Yeah, definitely.

Kevin Jones:  And apart with the law enforcement contact, we do unscheduled accountability tours, and that’s with our partnership with Metropolitan Police Department, and at that time, we also have what we call GPS clean sweep tours, where we will come do unscheduled accountability tours on an offender who has a GPS curfew of 7:00, just to make sure that they’re in place, that there’s no type of shielding, anything of that nature, and we also are really big on the Halloween project, where, that we will come to the offender’s home between the hours of 3 and 11, and he is to be in that home at that particular time.

Len Sipes:  Right, and we have found violations on the Halloween tour. We have found kids inside the home, and we have found them, they’re not supposed to be giving out candy, they’re not supposed to be decorating homes.

Kevin Jones:  Lights supposed to be off.

Len Sipes:  We roll up to the house, and there’s decorations, and there’s candy, so we’re trying to protect the public in that way.  The other major thing that we’re trying to do is look at social media, look at Facebook, but there are literally hundreds of sites that kids go onto.  I was reading this morning about going onto gaming sites.  You know, it’s not a chat room, it’s not Facebook, it’s now gaming sites.  So we’re now in the process of taking a look at social media and tracking that person through the social media process, correct?

Ashley Natoli:  Yes.

Kevin Jones:  That is correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and there’s a certain point where we are going to be expanding this to other offenders beyond sex offenders, but that’s part of their world, and that’s part of the experience of kids, and if they’re going to be there, we need to be there, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Kevin Jones:  Yeah, and we actually have a mechanism where we are monitoring Facebook, and we’ve had situations where we’ve seen our offenders who may have no contact with minors, and in his profile sheet, he’ll be holding

Len Sipes:  Right!

Kevin Jones:  a child.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Ashley Natoli:  And it’s not as simple as just searching them by their name.  You’re searching their aliases; you’re looking, searching by email addresses and different things, because a lot of it is not going to just be given to us.  We have to find the information.  It’s there if we search for it, deep enough.

Len Sipes:  Right.  We’re not going to give away our secrets in terms of how we’ve figured this out, but Cool Breeze was his moniker, nickname seven years ago, and son of a gun if he’s not using Cool Breeze in terms of his Facebook interactions, so there are all sorts of ways of getting at this issue.  So the bottom line is this.  What do we tell parents?  I mean, you guys are there protecting their kids, you’re protecting all of society, just not the kids, but you’re protecting society, protecting kids from further activities on the part of these individuals.  You know them better than just about anybody else in the criminal justice system.  What do we tell parents?  One of my chief messages is having an open conversation, so if somebody approaches that child, that child talks to the parents.

Ashley Natoli:  I agree, and I also think parents need to be aware that this is something real and that happens every day, and that a lot of people think, oh, it won’t happen to me, or it won’t happen to my children, but you need to be aware that it is a problem and it will happen, and you need to know what’s going on so that you can educate your children appropriately and know that this is real.

Len Sipes:  Well, the FBI is saying one million predators.  That’s just an unbelievable number of people.  I mean, they’re attacking your kids, correct, Kevin?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.  And a lot of it is, just like we were stating, collateral contacts.  You have to build a collateral contact with the offenders’ family members.

Len Sipes:  Right, and employers and friends.

Kevin Jones:  Employers, friends, significant others.

Len Sipes:  The bottom line is that you’ve got to get, and we’re going to close with this question, you’ve got to get a complete psychological profile of who that person is.  You’ve got to know that person better than their own mother knows that person, correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  All right, we’re going to close on that.  Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Jones, community supervision officer for the sex offender unit, my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Ashley Natoli, the community supervision officer, again, with the sex offender unit.  Thank you very much for watching, and please, protect your children.  Please have an open and honest conversation and age appropriate conversation with your children.  Watch for us next time when we explore another very important topic in our criminal justice system.  Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]


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Sex Offenders

This Radio Program is available at

This Television Program is available at

[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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Capturing a Child Sex Offender/Halloween Sex Offender Follow-up

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– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome from our studios in Downtown Washington D.C., it’s D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. We’re here today, talking with Matt Kiely, Matt is a supervisory community supervision officer in the sex offender unit. We’re here to talk to Matt about a couple things: number one, about a child sex offender and what it takes to convict a child sex offender in terms of a case that happened recently in Washington D.C., and also we’re going to be doing some follow-up in terms of our activities on Halloween, the activities between my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and the Metropolitan Police Department regarding Halloween Activities, and to Matt Kiely, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Len Sipes: Morning, Len. How are you doing?

Len Sipes: I’m doing fine, and I want to remind everybody that we are averaging now 120,000 requests a month for the program. Again, we appreciate everybody’s comments, we respond individually to everybody’s comments. You can reach us at D.C. Public Safety, or simply through your internet search engine, D.C. Public Safety, or you can reach us through media – M-E-D-I-A – .csosa – C-S-O-S-A – .gov and leave your comments. And with that introduction, what I’m going to do is to read from a press release written by the United States Attorney’s Office, and the press release goes as such: A 21 year old District of Columbia man has been sentenced to 121 months for possession of material involving child pornography. U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Taylor announced today, so previously in 2006, the defendant was convicted within the Superior Court of the District of Columbia of attempted child sexual abuse. While on probation for this offense, he submitted to a polygraph test which was administered by us at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and the polygraph provided inconclusive results, we questioned this individual about child pornography, and he admitted that he viewed child pornography on a computer from his mother’s home, so what we did is to go in and find that computer, and the analysis revealed that he had deleted over 3,000 files from the computer, some of which had contained child pornography. Some of the images of child pornography that he possessed involved pubescent minors or minors who had not attained the age of 12, and some of the images and videos that he possessed portrayed sadistic or masochistic conduct or other depictions of violence, and I’m just going to sum up here and simply say that the press release recognized Court Services and – sorry, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency supervisory community supervision officer Matt Kiely, and also community supervision officer Penny Spivey as to the individuals who had initiated this, and that’s one of the reasons we have Matt by our microphones. Matt, tell me, you and Penny Spivey, you did a great job, you were recognized by the United States Attorney’s Office in terms of this individual. Give me some of the basics of the case: he was on probation for attempted child sex abuse?

Matt Kiely: He was, Len, there are two minor victims that he was convicted of attempting to abuse, friends of the family, so when he originally came to probation, lucky for us, we had a slew of special conditions, but one that was overlooked at the time was a special search condition, and we subsequently wrote the judge requesting for this after previous interviews, the offender admitted to looking at pornography, so when we found out he was looking at pornography at home, we thought we needed a search condition to further monitor his behavior in the community. Eventually got, went back to court, the judge approved that request, and had it not been for that request, I doubt we’d have been able to search his computer and know what the offender was really doing out in the community.

Len Sipes: Okay, let’s go back a little bit in terms of sex offenders in general, and specifically child sex offenders. So this individual was convicted of trying to have sexual contact with a minor?

Matt Kiely: More or less, it was definitely pled down, the incident offense was actually the sexual abuse of a minor.

Len Sipes: Okay, so it was a plea bargain.

Matt Kiely: We believe there was abuse of two children, like I said, who were known by the offender, family friends, and the abuse did occur, through the courts as you know, the plea bargaining process basically, he took a plea to attempted sexual abuse of a child.

Len Sipes: Okay, so there’s no doubt that this individual had a history of illegal sexual contact with minors.

Matt Kiely: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: So what happens in terms of any child offender on our case load? We have, I think from our Halloween activities, if memory serves me correctly, approximately 200 child sex offenders, approximately 600 offenders overall, sex offenders overall, as part of our 15,000 offenders who we supervise on any given day. The child sex offenders generally come with a slew of special conditions, and those special conditions are really interesting. Did he have one for therapy?

Matt Kiely: He did, and as you stated, every offender that is assigned to CSOSA sex offender unit undergoes a psychosexual risk assessment that is completed by one of our contractors. They determine the need for sex offender treatment as well as the duration of treatment.

Len Sipes: Okay. So every, all of the 600 are under some sort of treatment program?

Matt Kiely: The, we currently have about 400 active offenders, some are in the early stages of treatment, some have completed the treatment and remain in an after-care phase.

Len Sipes: But in essence, treatment is part of the continuum for sex offenders.

Matt Kiely: Absolutely. Both parole and probation.

Len Sipes: Okay, and we’ve been able to discover that through the treatment process, they do better, they recidivate less, we have fewer victims on the street.

Matt Kiely: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay, so the treatment component is a big part of it, but also there are enforcement objectives, such as going in and looking at his computer, and in fact, we can look at his computer remotely.

Matt Kiely: Right. We do have monitoring software that’s now available, wasn’t available some years ago, but we currently have one offender right now that we’re reviewing his, any and all activity of his home computer, so if his wife gets on that computer, children get on that computer, we have it monitored, and they’re aware of this.

Len Sipes: Okay, and we can monitor their cell phones as well.

Matt Kiely: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: But in this case, what this individual did was to go to his mother’s house to download child pornography, correct?

Matt Kiely: Right, what’s important to realize with this case is, even though we had a special search condition that authorized the searching of his computer, this computer was actually his mother’s, so the gray area was the offender was accessing his mother’s computer, so while we had a special condition to search his computer, we had to gain the mother’s consent to search her computer.

Len Sipes: And we got that consent.

Matt Kiely: We absolutely did.

Len Sipes: Okay, the other things we use are polygraph tests, which are lie detector tests, which are also part of the treatment process, where we sit down with the individual, and a lot of times, you know, throughout my criminal justice career, I found that a lot of people will deny, deny, deny, deny, once they’re hooked up to that polygraph machine, they will, in many cases, simply tell what’s been going on, and that’s been your experience as well, correct?

Matt Kiely: Absolutely, but by far, this is probably, bar none, the best tool we have. As you said, and studies suggest, that basically the rate of offenders admitting to their crimes increases greatly once they’re subjected to polygraphs.

Len Sipes: Right. We also have global positioning system devices that we use on sex offenders, and lots of other offenders. We have 800 people of our 15,000 on GPS supervision on any given day, so that’s an important tool, it is an overwhelming tool in terms of all the information that it brings to us, but the nifty thing about it is that you can overlay maps of the city, and you can even bring down Google Earth, so you can overlay a map, and you’re wondering why is that person hanging out in that particular area, the map doesn’t give us that information, but Google Earth suddenly pulls up a playground.

Matt Kiely: Right, and what’s great is this has increased our cooperation and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies outside of DC. GPS just does not define the district, they can go into Maryland, Virginia, commit crimes over there, I’ve been in contact with law enforcement in both Maryland and Virginia, when crimes are committed, the first thing they want to check out is any D.C. offenders that are on GPS who were in that jurisdiction at that time.

Len Sipes: And we’re doing a couple articles now as we speak on GPS where I interviewed a person in charge of the major crimes unit for the Metropolitan Police Department here at Washington D.C. who said that it may not specifically provide us as an investigative unit with, you know, a direct connection to the offender, but if that offender was there, what was he doing there? Was he out for a smoke, was he walking his dog, or was he holding, was he the driver for the crime? Did he observe anything in the area? Did he hold the gun? So there’s all sorts of connections that could possibly be made, and GPS is a fairly powerful tool, so I won’t get onto all the other stuff, but there’s a lot of technology that we bring to the table in terms of convicting sex offenders, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you today and to you and Penny Spivey who were directly involved in terms of this particular case, that it was through that forensic analysis, through that process of being sure that we have access to the computers that they use, and in some cases, they’ll go to the library and use computers, again, which is one of the wonderful reasons why we have GPS, and the final thing, which I didn’t mention is we also do our own surveillance, if necessary. The GPS is just a tool. Once you figure out why is that, once you’re suspicious as to why a person is at the library, you’ve got to go and figure out, you know, observe, in many cases, why he’s at the library, correct?

Matt Kiely: Right, we’ve also parlayed that in with other law enforcement agencies. Recently we assisted the Metropolitan Police Department’s assistance during Halloween to conduct surveillance on one of our high risk offenders that we thought was in violation.

Len Sipes: And I wanted to bring that up, and that’s a perfect segue, and then I’ll get back to this case in a second. On Halloween, one of the things that we did was, ladies and gentlemen, was to send out 13 teams of individuals from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Sex Offender Unit, as well as individuals from the Metropolitan Police Department who went into, we basically told all the 200 child sex offenders that they had to be home, and they could not participate in Halloween, so what we did, was, unannounced, these 13 teams fanned out throughout the city and went to check to see if these individuals were indeed engaged, first of all, were they home, and second, were they engaged in activities that would entice a child into that home on Halloween. Matt, one of the things that I do want to talk about with the Halloween wrap-up is we have about 20 individuals that were not at home at the time, and what happens to those people?

Matt Kiely: And in some instances, we had offenders not at home, in a few instances, we actually had offenders actually leave the residence after the visit was completed –

Len Sipes: A-ha!

Matt Kiely: So thankful for those offenders, we had them on GPS, we had GPS staff assisting us on this initiative, so when they left the residence, they still contacted staff in the community, advise them the offenders left, and we followed up with those offenders in reference to, about those 20 that were home –

Len Sipes: Well, we contacted them and told them to go home.

Matt Kiely: Absolutely, and 6 of those 20 seems like a large number, 6 of those were at a shelter, which unfortunately, we didn’t have the assistance of shelter staff to verify whether they were there or not. So you know, this number could have been quite smaller had we been able to verify the offender was at the shelter.

Len Sipes: Right. But all of them were told in writing, and they signed the letter when they met with their community supervision officers, to be at home. The other thing, a very interesting case, which is somewhat similar to the case we were talking about, and we cannot use names, and we have to be, well we didn’t use names the first time around, but we cannot be too specific regarding this case, is that you and the Metropolitan Police Department staked out a home of a person who we suspected to be continuing to engage in child sexual abuse, and we did the, what we call an accountability tour, one of these 13 teams went out to the home and contacted him directly, but then again, we went back to see if he was still there, and we were doing surveillance between the Metropolitan Police Department and ourselves, correct?

Matt Kiely: Right. We had, about a few weeks earlier, received information, this offender was in violation, more specifically, possibly engaged in –

Len Sipes: Don’t be specific, because he hasn’t been convicted.

Matt Kiely: Right, possibly engaged in previous criminal behavior –

Len Sipes: There we go.

Matt Kiely: – he was placed on parole for. In addition to that, we had information that he was masking or circumventing GPS procedures with his GPS device, so based on that, we contacted MPD’s assistance, and they provided surveillance up to about midnight when we decided to, again, a special search condition of the residence to see if we could determine if there was any evidence of those violations.

Len Sipes: And again, because it’s an ongoing case, we cannot be very specific about it, but he is now in jail on a parole violation.

Matt Kiely: Correct. We did find evidence that he was –

Len Sipes: Continuing his involvement.

Matt Kiely: Well, no, he was circumventing his GPS. Clear and convincing evidence that he was doing that. Based on that, we requested a warrant, the parole commission acted quickly, U.S. Marshals assisted us in executing the warrant a day after we wrote the report.

Len Sipes: Okay, that’s one day turnaround.

Matt Kiely: That’s pretty good.

Len Sipes: Yeah, that’s magical, in fact, in terms of the overall criminal justice system! So in essence, we say this in terms of child sex offenders, that the treatment process, we do believe in. The process does work to lower recidivism, that means fewer children are violated. We have very intense contact standards in terms of child sex offenders, we have an amazing array of technology. You know, when I came from another state system to this agency 5 years ago, we had none of that, and to my knowledge, they still have none of it, so the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, which is a federal agency, we really do have an amazing array of electronics and technologies and lower case loads, and we really do keep a really good eye on not just child sex offenders, but sex offenders across the board, correct?

Matt Kiely: Absolutely, as you indicated, due to our federal status as an agency, we receive federal funds, to we are probably one of the best funded agencies that deal with a local case load.

Len Sipes: And I totally, totally, totally agree with that. Getting back to the original press release written by the United States Attorney’s Office, so what we have here is we did the analysis of the computer, and so we ended up with thousands and thousands of images on that computer, and some of the individuals there were under the age of 12, and some of them portrayed acts of violence. Now I understand there may be some controversy in terms of what constitutes, you know, a violation of your community supervision, what violates community standards, what violates the law, but here is a clear cut case of thousands, under the age of 12, depicting acts of sexual violence. Now this is just ridiculously wrong. Not only just illegal, but ridiculously wrong! Which certainly indicates that this person, even beyond the treatment process, and even though we say the treatment process is successful and useful in terms of protecting public safety, obviously in this case, and in other cases, we have child sex offenders who don’t get with the program.

Matt Kiely: Right, and I was in court last week when this offender was sentenced, and as the U.S. Attorney said, these are more than just mere images of naked minors, these were sadistic portrayed young minor boys being sadistically raped, hog tied, truly sadistic, so the sentence does certainly fit the crime in this case.

Len Sipes: And in this case, the guy, he was on probation, interestingly enough, and now he is going back to prison. 121 months for possession of material involving child pornography. That’s a long term, and a justifiable term considering his history, and justifiable term considering the fact that we’re talking about thousands of images. Now what is this, people oftentimes ask, Matt, and it’s probably the most difficult of all criminalogically. So the child sex offenders, and sex offenders across the board, and there’s a huge difference between an individual who is a predatory rapist who stalks individuals and attacks them, attacks his victims as strangers and rapes them vs. an individual who has prior knowledge of the victim, and if you look at U.S. Department of Justice statistics, the majority of rapes occur in a residential setting, not outside, in a majority of rapes, the victim and the perpetrator know each other, so there’s that consideration, then you go all the way to the child sex offender part of it, where obviously innocent individuals, not to say that the others are not innocent, but you know, because of the very status of a child, is a particularly troublesome crime, so you’ve got have strategies for the various types of sex offenders that we supervise, correct?

Matt Kiely: Absolutely. They differ greatly, whereas the rapist, as you indicated, is about power and control, generally most sex offenses, the victim is known, so the old adage that they teach in schools, the “stranger danger” doesn’t really apply, doesn’t happen absolutely, but the vast majority of sexual crimes, the victim and the offender know each other.

Len Sipes: And that’s one of the reasons why I bring this up, because we have this stereotype, and I wrote articles on this years ago, of the woman walking down the street walking down the alley, and she’s pulled behind bushes and raped. As disgusting as that is, it is misleading, and as I tell my daughters, I said, look, rapes occur not on the street, but they occur at somebody’s home. Either his home, or your home, and you know this individual, so it’s not so much stranger danger as you just said, but it’s who we let inside our own homes and whose homes we go into that become of paramount importance to young women, and in some cases men, in terms of those decisions that they make.

Matt Kiely: Absolutely, and that’s one of the case management practices we utilize in the sex offender unit that, in knowing this, we make it a point that staff contact the offenders, collateral contact, starting with their family: mom, dad, sister, brother. And then outreaching beyond that, we’re talking aunts, cousins, employers; further: neighbors, everyone the offender knows, we want to make sure that they’re aware of the offender’s history, because again,, they’re more likely to victimize someone they know.

Len Sipes: Right, and that becomes the key issue here. Plus with the collateral contacts, we can’t be, with GPS, we can be, but generally speaking, we can’t be with that offender 24 hours a day 365 days a year, but they are.

Matt Kiely: Unfortunately, yeah. We can’t.

Len Sipes: And they are, in some cases, are our best sources of information in terms of inappropriate behavior or illegal behavior on the part of this individual.

Matt Kiely: Absolutely. Generally the initial source generally comes from the family, friends, loved ones, so forth, where the offender is in the stage of violation, maybe drinking again, and it’s that first stage that we want to catch the offender at.

Len Sipes: You know, I find it interesting that, in a couple cities, we have this sense of “stop snitching.” You don’t cooperate with law enforcement authorities, and I understand that we’re part law enforcement and part treatment, and I understand that and totally agree with it, but the concept here is more of the fact that people are willing to be sure that this individual does what he’s supposed to do.

Matt Kiely: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: And that’s a very powerful tool in terms of what it is that we do.

Matt Kiely: You’re right. Family members, the vast majority of them, realize the offender did wrong and want to do everything to make sure the offender complies with his conditions, and ultimately stays out in the community, so that’s important to them, so we do often, we’ll get the first phone calls, signs of problems that we as a supervision agency need to immediately address.

Len Sipes: And I think once again that, in terms of Halloween activities, in terms of special activities with the Metropolitan Police Department, it’s interesting because people did say to me, when we did the Halloween activities, they said, “What was so particularly special about Halloween? Give me one instance of a child sex offender violating somebody on Halloween.” And my first reaction was, we do this throughout the course of the year, we and the Metropolitan Police Department make announced and unannounced visits to the home of 8,000 offenders every year, so we did nothing more than what we do on Halloween, we did nothing more than what we ordinarily do throughout the course of the year, I think that’s the first consideration, and secondly, to one editor of a newspaper here in the District of Columbia, I said, well, if a child, if the individual has a sexual predisposition towards children, does that stop during Halloween, and does Halloween present a special set of circumstances? We have individuals who have said, “I have a sexual predisposition towards children, I in the past have had sex with children, and I look in the past for opportunities to violate children sexually,” so why wouldn’t it stand to reason that Halloween provides a special case as to why we have to be extra vigilant?

Matt Kiely: It does, it’s the only day out of the year where you have mass numbers of children knocking on strangers’ doors.

Len Sipes: And in some cases, unescorted by parents, because people would say to me, well, no, when I went trick or treating, I was escorted by parents, and my response was, that’s not 100%. I’m not even quite sure it’s 50% in a lot of communities. A lot of these kids are out there on their own!

Matt Kiely: Right, and they should be escorted. That’s another story in itself, but like I said, it’s the only day out of the year that you have children knocking on strangers’ doors, and you know, things could happen, and would hate to be that first jurisdiction that something did happen, and we had not set up some type of initiative to proactively combat this issue.

Len Sipes: I understand the questions that people did ask, and I understand the questions reporters did ask, but by and large, I’ve never quite understood that a sexual predisposition regarding children, I just don’t think that goes away magically on Halloween, and I thought it presented a special opportunity where we had to be vigilant, and we were. So we’re going to wrap up, Matt. We have 3 teams of sex – we have 3 sex offender teams here at CSOSA, now we have 400 offenders who are active, and a couple hundred who are not?

Matt Kiely: Right. Those hundred who are not are generally in the institutions either pending release or could be pending a revocation hearing, some others have completed the active component of supervision successfully and are now on inactive supervision, which basically indicates they’ve done so well over the years that as long as they don’t get re-arrested, they will continue as they will until their full term date reaches.

Len Sipes: And I do want to leave the audience, again, this’ll be the third time I have mentioned this. We do have offenders through the treatment process who thoroughly understand their set of circumstances, and really do seem to be doing very well, but for those offenders who don’t, or those offenders who are on the edge, our enforcement actions, probably, I’m going to guess, I don’t know this, but I’m going to guess, from my time in the criminal justice system, that it’s certainly, if not the best in the country, one of the best in the country.

Matt Kiely: I agree.

Len Sipes: Okay, we’ve been talking with Matt Kiely, Matt is a supervisory community supervision officer with the sex offender unit at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. He and Penny Spivey, who could not be here today due to a family emergency, did result in an apprehension of a child sex offender, and they were cited through a press release issued by the United States Attorney’s Office here in Washington, D.C. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. Once again, we respond to all of your inquiries, your questions, your suggestions, your comments, we individually respond to all of them. Feel free to make suggestions in terms of what we can do here at D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes, 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, DWI.


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DC and National Sex Offender Registries

This Radio Program is available at

[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I am your host Len Sipes. The program today is about the Sex Offender Registry in the District of Columbia and some of the larger issues about sex offender registries throughout the country. With us today, we have Stephanie Gray, she is a specialist with the Sex Offender Registry for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And we have Sergeant Robert Panizari, he is a sergeant unit supervisor for the Sex Offender Unit with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C. And to Stephanie and to Bob, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Stephanie Gray: Good morning.

Robert Panizari: Good morning.

Leonard Sipes: Now did I get your name right, Bob?

Robert Panizari: Yes you did.

Leonard Sipes: All right, good. It’s Panizari, okay-I practiced that before the program. We’re talking about sex offender registries-now it’s interesting that virtually every state in the United States has a Sex Offender Registry, there is a National Sex Offender Registry as well maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice. In sex offender registries throughout the country, and I’ll speak from my experience in the state of Maryland where I was director of public relations for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for 14 years. We had an enormous amount of interest and an enormous demand from citizens for this information. Citizens obviously wanted information about sex offender registries. It has a certain amount of controversy in terms of its ethicacy-does it work, does it not work? But nevertheless, citizens want this information and citizens continue to want this information today. When we put up the Sex Offender Registry on the Maryland website, it almost brought down the website itself, it was that popular. So to discuss the circumstances in Washington D.C. again we have Stephanie with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Bob who is the unit supervisor for the Metropolitan Police Department. Bob, the first question goes to you, now Metropolitan Police Department is the police department for Washington D.C. and you have about five people in your unit, a couple civilians, and you’re in charge of promoting or making public the registry and also to check on offenders, correct?

Robert Panizari: That’s correct. You know, there’s two main ways we try to get information out there. We do have a website that we maintain which has information on certain classes of offenders, plus we have books at all of our police precincts that the community can come view there. And also, I just want to say this, the registry is there for the community so they can look at it and they can take reasonable precautions, and it’s also there for the police officers so the officers learn who the convicted sex offenders are on their beats. And that’s the kind of way we have it set up here in the city.

Leonard Sipes: Now that’s one of the things about the relationship between the court services and the offender supervision agency which is essentially the parole and probation agency for Washington D.C. even though we’re a federal agency, and the Metropolitan Police Department, we have a good working relationship; we exchange a ton of information all the time. And the Sex Offender Registry, part of it is important for the police officers to know who is out there, who we’re supervising, who we’re not supervising. Because my understanding is half the list are under active supervision by my agency again, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and half are not. So it’s important that this information is being exchanged between the two agencies, correct?

Robert Panizari: Oh no doubt and everything starts with CSOSA or Court Services. They’re the actual ones who do the registration of the offenders and everything starts with them. They get the information, they verify the information so we make sure that the information that we’re putting out there is correct-it all starts with Court Services.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So you do the website which is essentially the community notification, correct?

Robert Panizari: Yeah, that’s one of the main means we used to get the information out because you can get it out there quickly. We do have the books in the districts which we only update once a month. But again, the information on the website, once we get the information with Court Services, it’s a computer program that we share. Once they’ve entered it, we get it, we verify it, and then we can post it on our website.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and what is the website address?

Robert Panizari: The website is at

Leonard Sipes: Okay, one more time, www-

Robert Panizari: Dot M-P-D-C dot D-C dot gov.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, cool. And Stephanie, we’re going to go over to you now because the registry itself, and this is interesting, in Maryland, my old agency, we had pretty much exclusive responsibility for the registry. In this case we’re sharing responsibility. We as the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency as the good sergeant said, we populate the information, we verify who they are and we put the information into the website and then MPD promotes the website, correct?

Stephanie Gray: That is correct.

Leonard Sipes: That’s difficult in terms of identifying offenders, being sure we have the right names, being sure we have the right addresses, being sure that we have the right crimes-that’s an awesome task.

Stephanie Gray: Yes. Once the offender-we identify him by his identification, he’ll have an ID card, and then we’ll verify and get the information that he was convicted of from the U.S. courts, or the D.C. courts that has a signed judge’s name and date that he was sentenced so that we have the accurate information on what we’re registering that offender on.

Leonard Sipes: And so is there ever any question about the offender’s identity?

Stephanie Gray: Yes it is because a lot of them will go by an alias name where we’ll do a comparison of fingerprints to get it matched to that particular person.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s one of the points that I wanted to make because that’s crucial in my criminal justice career which is 38 years. Boy have I seen a lot of people with aliases. I mean, I’ve run rap sheets in the past with 20 aliases, 15 dates of birth.

Stephanie Gray: Yeah.

Leonard Sipes: And the whole idea as far as to the listening public is that they were able in the past to fool the system because you could be arrested and come in and be booked and give a false name, give a false date a birth, and we within in the law enforcement community would release that person thinking that we had John Doe when the guy’s real name is Tim Smith and he’s wanted for a homicide from Nebraska. I mean, that’s an extreme example, so we now match them via fingerprints, and that’s a positive identification so we know who that person is, we know their aliases, we know who they are, we know their backgrounds and their criminal histories.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And we have what, three categories in the District of Columbia of offenders that we use?

Stephanie Gray: Yes, we have three classifications levels. Class A is registered for every 90 days and that’s a lifetime registration, they are on the public website.

Leonard Sipes: All right, now let me stop you there. Every 90 days they have to come in to the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and do what?

Stephanie Gray: They’re updating their registration requirement, they’re updating their address, their work information, if they have a car, their driver’s license, all the information has to be updated with us every 90 days.

Leonard Sipes: And so they have to bring in an array of original documents to prove this?

Stephanie Gray: Yes. We ask for a copy of a lease. If they’re working we’ll make a copy of the pay stub, and we also make copies of their driver’s license.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so we have a fairly complete process in terms of who they are and they’re positively identified through their fingerprints. Now every 90 days, do they really do that-do they really come in every 90 days and register?

Stephanie Gray: The most part, yes. The problem we have on some are our homeless offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Gray: Or offenders who are in shelters.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Gray: And a lot of times either they don’t get the mail or they’ll just overlook it because they see that it’s a certified letter from somewhere and they’re like, ‘oh my gosh, who is sending me a certified letter?’

Leonard Sipes: So what do we do when we can’t track that person down?

Stephanie Gray: At that time, if they’re not in the office by a due date-we give them a due date.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Gray: A notice goes up to Sergeant Panizari and his staff to go out and do the search for them.

Leonard Sipes: All right. And I’ll suggest to most of the listeners that that level of scrutiny is probably the exception. That’s good because my experience with the National Sex Offender Registry and the folks over at the Department of Justice, most jurisdictions in the country are not doing that. That’s just my observation, you guys don’t have to comment on it, I’ll take responsibility for that observation. All right, so we have the level one offender, that’s what we’re calling him?

Stephanie Gray: We’re calling him a class A offender.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, class A offender. Now he is probably a fairly serious person–committed a fairly serious crime for that person to have to come in every 90 days.

Stephanie Gray: Yes, that’s our high-risk.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And ordinarily, what are they convicted of?

Stephanie Gray: They can be convicted of as far as a rape. It can be child abuse against a person under 12.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so these are the fairly serious offenders.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And how many offenders do we have on the registry? About six or seven hundred?

Stephanie Gray: We have 600 plus.

Leonard Sipes: Okay about 600 offenders. So how many-just give percentage off the top of your head, would be the class As?

Robert Panizari: I think currently we have around 671 offenders that are out in the community.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: And out of that number, I believe it’s about 330 that are class As.

Leonard Sipes: That’s a lot.

Robert Panizari: That’s a lot.

Leonard Sipes: I’m surprised that it’s that many. So 330 out of, let’s just say 700 to round it off.

Robert Panizari: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: 330 out of 700. That’ surprises me in terms of that class of an offender.

Robert Panizari: Well you know, it is a lot and-

Leonard Sipes: But it’s a big responsibility in terms of-I was expecting you to tell me that it’s 30, 40, 50. Keeping up with all these guys is tough. Now that I’m heartened as a citizen regardingt this level of cooperation that the two agencies have. All right, so then second-category Stephanie, we’ll get back to you, the second category is what, class Bs?

Stephanie Gray: It’s the class B.

Leonard Sipes: And who are the class Bs?

Stephanie Gray: Class Bs are required to register once a year for ten years or the life of their probation or parole.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, they got ten years regardless of the amount of time they’re on probation with the amount of time that they’re on parole.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So I’m assuming that the class Bs are less than predatory offenders. I’m assuming, and tell me if I’m wrong, that class As are the really predatory hardcore folks, and the class Bs are less than that.

Stephanie Gray: Yeah you can say that, but some of our class Bs are-I mean, they’re high-risk as well.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, I accept that. And you could be-for the listening public, you could be charged with possession of drugs and be high-risk. You could be charged with a higher crime, but not be such a high risk because you’re cooperating, you’re in treatment, and everything’s going fine.

Stephanie Gray: Exactly.

Leonard Sipes: So it’s not just the crime, it’s what’s happening in that person’s life at the same time.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Right? In terms of the risk level of that person.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. But we establish, I would imagine, class As and Bs based upon a certain criminal criteria, correct? In terms of crimes that you’re convicted of?

Robert Panizari: Yeah, that’s correct. Let me just chime in here for one second here.

Leonard Sipes: All right, go ahead.

Robert Panizari: Again, we do have the three classes of offenders: class As, which Ms. Gray said are our lifetime registrants, and the law requires a verification of information every 90 days, and class Bs, which is a ten-year registration period, and class Cs, which is also a ten-year registration period. Now class Bs, the age of the victim-a lot of these laws, when they were convicted, the categories, that determines what their class is going to be-either A, B, or C. So a class A offender for the most part does the most serious crimes – the rapes, forcible sodomy.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: Things of that nature.

Leonard Sipes: Understood.

Robert Panizari: And where the age of the victim was under 12, it could be a first or second degree child offense and the age of the victim is only 12.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: For Bs, the victim is between the age of 12 and 18.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: And for Cs, the victim was over 18.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: Now I do want to stress here that the Court Services or MPD, we have doe no type of risk assessment whatsoever on any of these offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: We can’t tell you if the class A offender is more likely to reoffend versus the class C offender.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But I guess, and stop me if I’m wrong, 50%-approximately, I’ve been told, 50% of the approximately 700 offenders that we have on the registry are under the act of supervision with Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And there within that, we do our own classifications in terms of risks levels. Sometimes I’m mixing Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and what we do with the Sex Offender Registry, but half of them are under act of supervision so I think that’s what I was referring to.

Robert Panizari: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. All right, so we have class A, class B, class Cs. The class As and Bs are on the registry, correct-on the Sex Offender Registry?

Robert Panizari: All three classes are on the Sex Offender Registry now, the only difference is the class C offender we don’t post on our website.

Leonard Sipes: We don’t post them on the website, but these are in books available at any Metropolitan Police Department district station.

Robert Panizari: Yeah, for class C offenders you’d have to visit one of the book locations.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: And there’s about 17 copies of the books in various police facilities throughout the city.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so anybody who wants access to that information can go to the books, okay.

Robert Panizari: Right.

Leonard Sipes: By the way, in terms of a piece of backup, I think it was the Wetterling Act-there is national legislation that really does suggest that the states and the district and the territories to have a Sex Offender Registry. I think there is sort of 10% reduction in funds if they don’t. So this is a national movement –this is something that’s happening throughout the country, but the states will do it differently. In Maryland we put everybody on the Sex Offender Registry. In the district the class As and the class Bs, what I’m going to refer to is really serious offenders or on the Sex Offender Registry, right? Somewhere in that ballpark?

Robert Panizari: Somewhere in ballpark, yeah.

Leonard Sipes: [Laughs]

Robert Panizari: I do want to stress that no risk assessment is don’t whatsoever-

Leonard Sipes: Right, I hear you and I appreciate you correcting me. Okay, so people come to the Sex Offender Registry, and one of the things that we were really concerned about in Maryland, and I think the same concern happens-and Bob, this question goes to you, is that we mandate that nobody, absolutely nobody take any illegal action whatsoever towards that offender. And the Maryland registry and in the district, I think there’s a page that basically says that, correct?

Robert Panizari: That’s correct. I mean, anytime you’re putting information out to the public and you’re posting it on the website, there is a potential there for abuse. And we try to stress (inaudible 15:15) that this information that we put out there that we presume is going to be used lawfully to promote public safety. Now we don’t force it onto anybody, some people might not even want to know if the person that lives next door is a convicted sex offender. But we put the information out there and we haven’t had many issues or many problems with the offenders being threatened or intimidated just based solely on the fact that they’re on the registry.

Leonard Sipes: But this is information that individuals can use. My wife was vice president of a county PTA and they discussed this endlessly-that, ‘the Sex Offender Registry is up, it’s running, everybody look at it.’ Any time you are thinking about employing somebody as a baby sitter or somebody that’s going to coach your little league team, the registry is there for you to take a look at it, and to them it was a very big deal. I mean, this is information that they truly wanted.

Robert Panizari: Yeah. And it is, it’s there-I mean, we encourage all of our citizens to use the registry. I would hope they would want to know the people in the community who are on the registry and if they live in the same block of any of the people. Again, it helps in a couple ways. It can be another set of eyes and ears out there in the community-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: -to let us know if something doesn’t look right. And we do get calls from time to time about people who know that this offender is not currently living at the address. I know Ms. Gray said earlier that the class A offenders come in every 90 days, and the class Bs and Cs once a year. I don’t want to say it’s an honor system, because it’s a little bit more than an honor system. But what’s to prevent the guy coming in-say he’s a class A, he comes in today-it’s time to report, and then tomorrow he moves.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: But we’re not necessarily going to be looking for that guy unless something draws our attention to him.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s one of the things that everybody has got to deal with every registry in the country, not just the District of Columbia. There is no way of guaranteeing 100% accuracy 100% of the time. I’ll take the emphasis off of the Sex Offender Registry and put it on my own agency and that is that offenders move for many reasons-all the time. And an offender can have a legally established residence with his mother, mother gets really ticked off at him and throws him out.

Robert Panizari: Right.

Leonard Sipes: So suddenly he’s in the air. Now where he goes, I mean, he’s legally obligated to report back in to us and tell us that he is now living with his cousin or what his set of circumstances are. That’s one of the reasons why we and the Metropolitan Police Department do something called accountability where we go to that house of that offender, knock on his door-unannounced in many cases, and to verify his residency. And that’s one of-again, the beauties of this partnership between the Metropolitan Police Department and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. So even in my own agency there is difficulty following-up on-and every parole and probation agency in the country has this, and every Sex Offender Registry in the country has this, a certain percentage of the addresses and a certain percentage of the information is going to be inaccurate. And we need citizens to come back to us and to say, ‘this guy is no longer there, you need to know this,’ so we can launch it into investigation.

Robert Panizari: That’s right. I mean, there’s no way that-you know, we’re almost up to 700 offenders now in the community, there’s no way we can watch 700 people 24 hours a day.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: But by putting the information out there, hopefully the community can help be our eyes and ears.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Stephanie, we’re going to close the program pretty much with you. Now again, you have these offenders, they come in all-oh by the way, the class C offenders, they have to report once again every year?

Stephanie Gray: Yeah, they come in once and a year and theirs is also for ten years or the life of their supervision.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And that’s amazing. You have to be Grand Central Station for sex offenders in the District of Columbia.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: You know, a lot of these people I would imagine all on a fairly regular basis-you know who they are, you know their backgrounds, you know their circumstances.

Stephanie Gray: Yes we do.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s the important thing is if you find anything that’s out of line, any suspicions, you give that information over to Bob.

Stephanie Gray: Yes we do.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and that’s an important part of the partnership. Now is there anything else that you guys do? You basically verify the information that they provide you and register them, and if there are inaccuracies on the list, it goes over to the Metropolitan Police Department. Is there anything else that Court Services-I know that for our offenders on supervision, you get information from our community supervision officers known elsewhere as parole and probation agents, you get that information that, ‘this person’s not where he’s supposed to be,’ or, ‘we believe this person is engaged in this sort of behavior,’ but principally where the person is to update the registry information, correct?

Stephanie Gray: Right, that is correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So it’s a partnership. If the guys under supervision by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, if he’s on parole and probation then we have a pretty decent amount of contact. The information flows through you as the registry specialist-

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: -to record all this information, and then the Metropolitan Police Department has the responsibility of putting this information on the website and to disseminate the information from time to time in ways that is suitable and protects public safety and tracks down discrepancies and goes after people who are not doing what they should be doing, correct?

Robert Panizari: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Go ahead, please.

Robert Panizari: And another thing before we finish up here, I wanted make sure we talk about is that National Sex Offender Registry.

Leonard Sipes: Go ahead, please.

Robert Panizari: Because that’s a great tool for the community, especially here in the District of Columbia where we have Maryland and Virginia borders are so close. The District of Columbia is part of that national registry. People can go there-one thing about a national registry is you can go in and you can run a zip code.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: If you want to check a zip code-or you can check by name.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: So by all the states feeding into that national registry that is a big help because again, here in the city where we border other states so closely.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s a wonderful point because that’s what I did in the Maryland registry, I added Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia-and the District’s registry links to the Maryland registry just for that reason.

Robert Panizari: Yeah. On our website you’ll see not only a link to the national registry, but links to the surrounding state registries.

Leonard Sipes: That is great. That is a great idea. All right, Stephanie Gray, Sex Offender Registry Specialist and Sergeant Robert Panizari, the Unit Supervisor the for Sex Offender Registry Unit-thank you. Bob, one more time, the web address of the Sex Offender Registry is?

Robert Panizari: It’s And can I finish by saying one little thing here?

Leonard Sipes: Oh sure.

Robert Panizari: We want to be careful here that we don’t give a false sense of security in the community either. Now the ones on our website are the ones that are registered with Court Services. These are the offenders we know about. The ones we gotta be particularly careful about are the ones who haven’t been caught yet or we don’t know about. And we do offer information on our website on tips that you can (inaudible 22:39) yourself.

Leonard Sipes: And thank God you brought that up because when we were deciding what was the primary message with the Maryland registry, we decided that the primary message was going to be exactly that. That most sex offenders who are in our community are not on that registry because most sex offenders, the crimes have not been reported because as you know, there’s an outrageous amount of these sort of crimes that are not reported to law enforcement. So there’s a good number of people, probably the majority of what we call sex offenders, who are not-I’m so happy you brought at that up, who are not registered. What I said when we produced the Maryland registry it that, ‘this is an opportunity for parents to have age appropriate conversations with their children about what is right and what is not right-what other people have, what other people can do and can not do, and if that information-if in any way, shape, or form that child feels uncomfortable with that contact, it could be verbal, could be physical, could be just the slightest of touches, to come to the parents and talk to the parents about that-to establish that type of relationship.’ And that’s what’s going to prevent a lot of child abuse. And the second thing is that the good-let’s just say the majority of sexual child abuse, or child abuse in general-I’m sorry, I’m going to back up. Sexual child abuse is by somebody who the child knows.

Robert Panizari: That’s correct, and the statistics are pretty high. I want to say it’s almost 90% or it might even be a little higher where on the child abuse-child sexual abuse cases where the perpetrator and the victim know one another.

Leonard Sipes: Yep.

Robert Panizari: These aren’t stranger crimes. There’s not somebody jumping out behind the bushes in the vast majority of them.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and that’s what parents need to know. Parents need-and I really am very appreciative that you brought that up-are so focused on the mechanics of the registry that I completely forgot the larger issue of what we’re trying to accomplish here. But it really is extraordinarily important that parents understand and that children understand age-appropriate conversation. I can’t stress that enough, age-appropriate conversations that the majority of people who victimize their children, they may know that person-the child certainly knows that person, and that becomes a key issue. So the registry is there as a public information tool, but as Bob-as you said, it is extraordinarily important that people not get a false sense of security.

Robert Panizari: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: Thank you very much for bringing it up. All right, we’re going to close, again with Stephanie Gray, Sex Offender Registry Specialist and Sergeant Robert Panizari, he’s the Unit Supervisor for the Sex Offender Registry Unit. And we gave out the website address for the Sex Offender Registry. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. Watch for us next time as we explore another important issue within the criminal justice system. Our website is Thanks and have a great day.

[Audio Ends]

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