Governor Doyle Announces Sex Offender Apprehension and Felony Enforcement Initiative
Will Help Keep Wisconsin's Kids and Communities SAFE from Sex Offenders
Governor Jim Doyle today announced his Sex Offender Apprehension and Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Initiative - a comprehensive new effort to protect Wisconsin kids and keep communities safe from sex offenders.
"Wisconsin's sex predator laws and penalties are among the toughest in the nation. But keeping our kids safe is a never-ending job. We must remain vigilant, and we must keep improving our system for finding, prosecuting, and tracking these predators," Governor Doyle said.
Governor Doyle's SAFE Initiative involves state, local, and federal law enforcement partners in a series of innovative strategies focused on keeping kids safe by holding sex offenders accountable for their actions, preventing them from becoming anonymous in our communities, and apprehending and prosecuting those sex offenders who fail to notify authorities of their whereabouts, as required by law.
"Other states wait passively until sex offenders repeat a crime in order to find them. Here in Wisconsin, we're to going to go find them where they are," Governor Doyle said. "We're going to make sure we are using the latest, most modern technology. And we're going to connect the dots between law enforcement agencies so that we tighten the net around sex offenders and protect our kids."
Beginning in April 2005, Governor Doyle ordered the Department of Corrections to launch a crackdown on sex offenders who have not complied with the sex offender registry. Since that time:
Through a combination of federal, state, and local efforts, 94 arrests of non-compliant sex offenders have been made;
More than 1,300 sex offenders have been referred to district attorneys for prosecution for evading the sex offender registry - an increase of nearly 70 percent in the rate of referrals;
Non-compliance with the registry has been reduced from 18 percent to 14 percent - compared to a national average of 24 percent; and
Investigations of those who evade the registry have been dramatically sped up. Previously, most investigations took more than 60 days to complete. Now, almost 95 percent are complete in less than 60 days - and if a violation is found, local prosecutors are asked to go after them.
Sex Offender Apprehension and Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Initiative
Establishing "SAFE Teams" to Locate and Apprehend Sex Offenders
Governor Doyle has directed the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Office of Justice Assistance (OJA) to form "SAFE Teams," comprised of retired law enforcement professionals and DOC sex offender registry specialists, to locate, and hold accountable, sex offenders who have failed to register with the state as required by law. After DOC registry specialists conduct the initial investigation into a noncompliant registrant and a felony warrant is secured for the offender's arrest, the SAFE Teams employ a variety of investigatory tactics and tools to locate noncompliant sex offenders. After gaining actionable information, the teams make contact with the local sheriff and municipal police chief and provide the evidence needed by law enforcement to locate the offender and make an arrest.
To enhance the work of the SAFE Teams, OJA has established a SAFE Center to assist in the prioritization of statewide initiatives, to assist in tracking warrants, arrests, and dispositions that are a result of the SAFE Team efforts.
Retired law enforcement SAFE Team members include:
George Hegerty, retired from the Milwaukee Police Department (based in Milwaukee)
William Cator, retired from the Madison Police Department (based in Madison)
Steve Reinstra, retired from the Madison Police Department (based in Madison)
Rich Cowan, retired from the Madison Police Department (based in Madison)
Jody Becker, retired from the Dane County Sheriff's Department (based in Madison)
Appointing a Statewide "SAFE Task Force"
Governor Doyle is convening a statewide "SAFE Task Force" comprised of state, local, and federal law enforcement officials and representatives from DOC and OJA that will help improve Wisconsin's sex offender registry and track down those offenders who fail to comply with the registry requirements. The Task Force will coordinate statewide efforts in investigating, locating, apprehending, and prosecuting sex offenders who try to become anonymous from Wisconsin law enforcement agencies and citizens.
Sheriff Brad Gehring, Outagamie County
Rick Raemisch, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Corrections and former Dane County Sheriff
Chief Ray Appel, Neenah Police Department
Sheriff Robert Carlson, Racine County
Sheriff Ron Cramer, Eau Claire County
Chief Nannette Hegerty, Milwaukee Police Department
Scott Horne, La Crosse County District Attorney
Chief Edward Kondracki, La Crosse Police Department
Bill Kruziki, US Marshal's Service, Fugitive Task Force
E. Michael McCann, Milwaukee County District Attorney
Sheriff Scott Pedley, LaFayette County
Dave Steingraber, Executive Director Office of Justice Assistance and former police chief
Jim Warren, Administrator, WI Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation
Chief Noble Wray, Madison Police Department
Creating a "SAFE Tip" Toll-Free Hotline and Email Address
Governor Doyle has directed the Department of Corrections to create a toll-free "SAFE Tip" hotline and "Safe Tip" email address for members of the public to participate in the SAFE Initiative. Citizens can report tips about the whereabouts of noncompliant sex offenders to the SAFE Teams and the SAFE Task Force.
Citizens can also use the hotline and the email address to access information about SAFE, the Department of Corrections' Sex Offender Registry Program, and the Sex Offender Registry website and to alert authorities about any inaccurate information on the website. The hotline and email address will be operational by October 15, 2005.
Sex Offender Registry Website Improvements for More Public Access to Sex Offender Data
For the first time, Wisconsin parents, grandparents, and neighbors will have access to address information for all sex offenders required to register in Wisconsin. Governor Doyle has directed DOC to make residential addresses for all registered sex offenders available to the public on the sex offender registry website beginning December 1, 2005.
These enhancements to the registry website will complement the wealth of information already available on the site, including updated, enlargeable photographs of the offender's face, physical descriptions, conviction information, compliance status, and in cases where the sex offender is still under some form of supervision, the contact information for the agency supervising the sex offender.
Citizens can search for registered offenders by name or zip code online at: http://WIDOCOffenders.org.
Requiring All Sexually Violent Persons to Be Placed on GPS Monitoring
Governor Doyle is directing DOC and the Department of Health and Family Services to place all of the state's most dangerous sexual predators - those sexually violent persons who had been involuntarily committed and placed on supervised release in the community under the Wisconsin's Sexual Predator Law (Chapter 980) - on GPS monitoring.
Governor Doyle also called for legislation so that future sex offenders committed under the Chapter 980 law would be subject to lifetime GPS surveillance, even if a court eventually orders their release from supervision. Already under intensive supervision, these predators will be keenly aware that all of their movements are being tracked 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In addition, Governor Doyle has directed DOC to begin placing other serious child sex offenders who are released from state correctional facilities on GPS monitoring. Using approximately $500,000 in existing state and federal resources, the state will be able to monitor approximately 200 of the state's most dangerous sex offenders through GPS technology as part of the SAFE Initiative.
Under the Doyle Administration, the Department of Corrections began piloting GPS technology in January 2004. There are currently 11 sex offenders already on GPS monitoring, including two sexual predators who are on supervised release under the Chapter 980 law.
Expansion of the Sex Offender Management Fee
As a result of one of Governor Doyle's 2005-07 biennial budget initiatives, registered sex offenders are now required to pay an annual $50 Sex Offender Management Fee to help offset the cost of supervision and management of the sex offender registry that are incurred by the Department of Corrections.
As part of the SAFE Initiative, Governor Doyle will work with the Legislature to expand the Sex Offender Management Fee to help cover ongoing future costs of the SAFE Initiative.
Supporting Legislative Initiatives to Strengthen Wisconsin's Sexual Predator Law
As part of the SAFE Initiative, Governor Doyle announced his support for two legislative initiatives scheduled to be taken up during the Fall 2005 legislative session:
Governor Doyle strongly supports the efforts of the Chapter 980 Legislative Council Study Committee to strengthen Wisconsin's already tough law on the involuntary commitment of sexually violent offenders. This legislation, which is being authored by a bipartisan group of legislators, including Senator Alberta Darling and Representatives Jeff Stone and Tony Staskunas, will give prosecutors more tools in Chapter 980 proceedings, strengthen the standard for granting supervised release, and allow for juries to decide if a sexually violent offender meets the standard for discharge.
In addition, Governor Doyle announced his support for increased penalties for sex offenders included in Senate Bill 289, authored by Senator Carol Roessler. Among other reforms, the bill calls for an increase in penalty from second to first-degree sexual assault for those perpetrators who use or threaten force to compel sexual contact or intercourse with a non-consenting person, and expands the definition of first degree child sexual assault to include children under the age of 16. Under current law, first degree child sexual assault applies only when the victim is 12 years old or younger.
The SAFE Initiative is a major part of the Governor's ongoing agenda to protect Wisconsin children and communities from the dangers posed by sex offenders.