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More California sex offenders go missing under new law

Posted: March 16, 2013 3:00 p.m.
Updated: March 16, 2013 3:00 p.m.
 

The number of paroled sex offenders who are fugitives in California is 15 percent higher now than before Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping law enforcement realignment law took effect 17 months ago, state officials said this month.

The increase amounts to 360 more sex offenders this year than last whose whereabouts were unknown and who were not reporting to their parole officers.

An Associated Press analysis of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation data shows that 2,706 paroled sex offenders dropped out of sight in the 15 months since the new law took effect in October 2011, compared to 2,346 in the 15 months before realignment.

That’s an average of 180 sex offender fugitives each month, up from 156 before realignment.

Locally, the numbers were very different, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station officials said last week.

The most recent compliance check conducted locally showed deputies were unable to locate 10 of the approximately 200 sex offenders listed as residing in the Santa Clarita Valley, said Sgt Darren Harris of the station’s Crime Prevention Unit.

Conversely, local deputies were able to verify the locations of 198 registered sex offenders living in the valley, meaning the local rate of fugitive offenders is about 5 percent.

Compliance checks on sex offenders are conducted twice a year, the most recent done in October, officials said.

Statewide attention has focused on parolees who cut off or disable their GPS-linked ankle bracelets, meaning that parole agents are unable to track their movements by satellite.

Sex offender parolees are required to wear the tracking devices under Jessica’s Law, approved by state voters in 2006.

The governor’s realignment law sends lower-level offenders to county jails instead of state prisons and was enacted in part to conform to a federal court order to reduce the inmate population.

Before the law took effect in 2011, those who violated their parole by tampering with their GPS devices could have been returned to state prison for up to a year. Now they can be sentenced to up to six months in county jails, but many are released within days because local jails are overcrowded.

Some county jails refuse to accept the parole violators at all.

The problem varies greatly by county. Many saw no significant change, while some saw decreases in the number of sex offenders who could no longer be located.

But the number nearly doubled in Fresno County, from 62 before realignment to 116 through the end of last year.

The number jumped from 685 to 847 in Los Angeles County, which produces about a third of the state’s criminals.

The problem of cutting off GPS tracking devices has prompted state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, to introduce SB57, which would make disabling the device a felony and send parolees back to state prison for up to three years if they cut off their GPS monitors.

His bill would apply not only to state parolees, but to offenders who are ordered to wear the tracking devices as a condition of their county probation.

If passed by two-thirds of lawmakers and signed by Brown, his bill would take effect immediately instead of Jan. 1.

 

 

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