Sentinel for SORNA

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Sentinel for SORNA™ Press Release

Susan Kirkland - Calhoun Times
Used with permission

At any given time in America, there are 100,000 unaccounted-for sex offenders, out of more than 600,000 who should be registered.

Gordon County, working with map developers, and the county’s GIS and IT departments can say the number of unaccounted-for sex offenders in Gordon County is zero.

“We know where they all are,” said Brian McClellan, director of the county’s IT and GIS departments.

It was a joint effort between the Sheriff’s Office, the county, and school officials to get a handle on the 118 sex offenders residing in Gordon County.

Clent Harris, chief deputy, said it started almost a year ago when President George Bush signed into effect the Adam Walsh Child Protection Law, requiring sex offenders to live and work more than 1,000 feet from any place children congregate. Before they could decide how to best monitor the situation, a law firm filed an open records request wanting to see the location of the county’s bus stops – one of the most contested aspects of the bill.

They contacted Geary Cooper, director of transportation, who said he had received the same request and already sent the information to them. He then showed McClellan and Harris the program he used.

“It documented which bus stop, which kids got on and off there, and their parents’ contact information,” McClellan said. “We knew we could use that system to track sex offenders.”

The program needed some modifications, and Cooper gave them the contact information for the developers. Joe and Tom Canepa quickly got behind the project and in November, delivered the final product, called SORT – Sex Offender Registration and Tracking program.

In the eight months it has been used, 69 sex offenders have been in violation of the law, 31 were notified they needed to relocate, and 38 had to change employment. There have also been 36 warrants issued, 29 arrested and 10 absconded.

Those absconded don’t mean they are missing, according to Bill Soulios, the sex offender investigator for the Sheriff’s Office.

“They may have been picked up on other charges and are accounted for there,” he said.

They have even gone as far as Grand Rapids, Mich., to arrest sex offenders, he said.

The program uses geographical information system to determine 1,000 and 1,500 feet perimeter where a sex offender lives or works and compares it to those same distances around those areas children can congregate. Included in the list are schools, daycares, churches, parks, bowling alleys, and pool places. If the 1,000 feet perimeters overlap, the offender is in violation.

In one instance, a sex offender was in violation of four places because he lived near a school, church and park. Only once or twice did the distance have to physically be measured, McClellan said. The county also verifies the distance using their own GIS system.

The program compiles a report that shows which offenders are in violation so the sheriff’s office or probation office can handle it. In the future, the county would like to upgrade the program to include tracking serious crime to help assign patrol zones, to track search and rescue teams, and to generate a Web site automatically with the sex offender registry since the county has to maintain a separate one from the city. The program can also be used to help law enforcement make tactical and strategic plans in the case of an emergency.

“We are here to protect and serve. Protecting has become quite a bit involved,” Soulios said.


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