Just in time for Halloween, the Tempe Police Department is trying to make the city safer through a more detailed sex offender database program with real-time information now accessible to the public.
Improving on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Offender Watch program that also is a public-accessible sex offender database, Tempe on Monday announced a better detailed database touted to save time and manpower for its officers. It provides real-time information and shares it on reportable Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders including their past criminal history. The program also sends out automated alerts whenever applicable and can print out flyers within three minutes as opposed to a process that used to take at least a week during the old information gathering method.
Over a period of two months, Tempe’s sex crimes unit uploaded to the database information from its case files of 142 sex offenders in the city’s 40-square-mile radius. Residents can sign up for alerts and log into the system to check which offenders live nearby and are required to register and inform authorities when they move.
With the help of a watchful eye of neighborhood block watch groups and alert parents, the database and being vigilant during the Halloween season also can help prevent trick-or-treat festivities from turning into a tragedy.
Residents can register for Offender Watch on www.tempe.gov/police.
Police are reminding residents to be watchful of children out trick-or-treating, not to let them go into anyone’s home under any circumstances, and not to trick-or-treat in poorly lighted neighborhoods or apartment complexes.
“The worst call an officer can go on is an abducted child call or an attempted child abduction,” said Lt. Scott Smith of the Tempe Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Unit. “Those calls send a shiver down an officer’s spine. Time is of the essence when a child becomes missing, and the database is the first thing officers go to see which sex offenders are living in the neighborhood.”
“The database is real-time, and that is key,” Smith added. “Getting information on a sex offender used to be a labor intensive process ... The new database provides more information by including other past convictions, whether they’ve had weapons violations and if they may have weapons. It makes it safer for an officer to approach their door.”
Some of the new information that now is included on the Offender Watch database includes a recent mugshot of an offender, prior addresses, past roommates, scars and tattoos.
“This gives an officer and the public a ton of details,” said Detective Naomi Galbraith of the sex crimes unit. “We get the information from the MCSO, and we add to it. The information that goes out is only as good as the information that comes in. We treat the database as our case files.”
“We feel this is a great tool to keep you and your kids safe,” Galbraith added.
However, Smith and Galbraith were quick to say that the database is not to be used to harass offenders living in neighborhoods as they, too, have the right to privacy while they live on lifetime probation or supervised probation.
Sex offenders who no longer are on supervised probation are permitted to decorate their homes on Halloween and pass out candy, according to Smith and Galbraith.
Smith also said of Offender Watch, “This has taken us to the next level to keep track of our sex offenders. If they are going to fall out of compliance and don’t register, we have a zero tolerance and we’re going to catch them.”
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