Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Coeur d'Alene Registered Sex Offenders - Part II

Suppose your community has a triangular-shaped residential area of nearly 0.2 square miles, a triangle enclosed by drawing lines between two elementary schools and one middle school. And suppose that your community had 23 registered sex offenders (RSO) living within that triangle. Would you be concerned?

Some residents of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, who live in the vicinity of N. 8th Street and Hastings Avenue say they face exactly that situation daily. And they're trying to do something about it.

Coeur d'Alene residents ought to give a standing ovation to their courageous neighbors who spoke at the Tuesday, April 19, 2005, meeting of the Coeur d'Alene City Council. These neighbors, most of them living in the vicinity of N. 8th Street and Hastings Avenue in Coeur d'Alene, brought to public light the number and locations of registered sex offenders (RSO) living in Coeur d'Alene.

Unlike the polished, hired-gun speakers armed with PowerPoint presentations and employed by big-money developers (you know, the folks who get quick Council action on things), our neighbors talked last night about their fears of the RSOs and those who regularly visit them. They often spoke emotionally, nervously, and eloquently using hand-drawn maps. Unlike the hired-gun speakers, our neighbors spoke from their hearts rather than from their pocketbooks out of a reasonable fear for the safety of their families.

As expected, the Council handed the matter off to the General Services Committee chaired by Ben Wolfinger. I am not encouraged. At last night's meeting, Wolfinger misled one of our neighbors when he commented that the registry of sex offenders and the database of probationers and parolees is available on the Internet. The wording of his statement suggested that the databases were equally searchable and that they provided the same information. That impression is inaccurate.

As I noted in my post yesterday, the Idaho Sex Offender Registry is searchable by last name and date of birth, zip code, or county. A successful RSO search returns an offenders full name and last known address. Each name is hyperlinked, so clicking on a particular name will return a color photo of the offender, his/her full name and date of birth, his/her last known address, the offense for which s/he was convicted, and the place and date of the conviction. The RSO database is maintained by the Idaho State Police.

Conversely, the Idaho Department of Correction database of convicted felons on probation or parole is searchable only by last name, first name, or offender number. A successful search returns the status (probation or parole), the offender's name and date of birth, the supervising district with phone number and supervising officer's name, the offense for which the offender was sentenced, the sentencing county, the case number, and the sentence satisfaction date. Note what is not available on this database:

  • A photo of the offender
  • The offender's current residence address
  • A search by county or zip code

I presume Councilmember Wolfinger's failure to distinguish between the contents of the two databases was inadvertent and not an attempt to intentionally mislead one of our neighbors.

So what is our City Council going to do? Probably very little . If an RSO has satisfied his/her obligation to the state by successfully completing a prison term or by successfully satisfying the court's sentence on probation or parole, the state has little control over what the RSO does until s/he reoffends.

As some of us who live in the Coeur d'Alene Place subdivision learned last year, the city was unwilling to enforce the city's zoning ordinances that would have prevented multiple convicted felons on probation and parole from living together in rental housing in a residential zone. At that time, the City Council promised to rewrite the deficient ordinances to make them enforceable. A year has passed and that still has not happened, so the promises made to our neighbors on Hastings Avenue last night by the Council have a somewhat hollow ring to them.

While the city may not be able to regulate where an RSO and a convicted felon on state-supervised probation or parole live in Coeur d'Alene, the city could readily and easily enact enforceable city ordinances that would:

  • Establish an online database at the city's website that would list the names, addresses, offender numbers, and offenses for which convicted of all RSOs and convicted felons still on state-supervised probation or parole and residing in Coeur d'Alene. It would also present a color photograph of the offender. Require the city's database to be interactive and allow an inquirer to enter a street address or click on a map location and obtain locations of RSOs and probationers and parolees in a selectable radius of the entered address or map point. The objective would be for anyone and everyone to be able to have critical information about RSOs, probationers, and parolees before making a decision to move to Coeur d'Alene or rent or purchase property here.
  • Require that prospective property buyers or renters in Coeur d'Alene be informed of and provided access to the proposed database before making any contractual commitment for property in Coeur d'Alene.
  • Require a special use permit by the owner or landlord of any residential property who wants to rent that property to one or more RSOs or to one or more convicted felons on state-supervised probation or parole. The special use permit process would require a public hearing which would, of course, disclose the status of the proposed renters.
  • Prohibit RSOs from being closer than two miles to any school, public or private.
  • Prohibit convicted felons on state supervised probation or parole from being closer than two miles to any school, public or private, without explicit permission from the felon's probation or parole officer.

After the Coeur d'Alene Place neighbors successfully persuaded the Department of Correction to remove the four convicted felons on probation or parole from our neighborhood last year, I contacted State Representative George Sayler and State Senator John Goedde to ask that the state establish the type of database that would meet some of the requirements proposed above. Neither expressed any interest in proposing legislation that would mandate neighborhood access to information about convicted felons on probation or parole. Both expressed a concern that such a database might somehow violate a probationer or parolee's Constitutional rights. Senator Goedde did promise to run my proposal past some of his friends in real estate, but of course, he has never recontacted me with their comments.

At last night's Council meeting, several Council members seemed unaware of the distribution and population density of the RSOs in Coeur d'Alene. Isn't this something the Chief of Police should have brought to the council's attention? Why did it have to come from the neighbors?


Blogger Bill said...

How do you get an accurate location of RSO's and other people on parole?

10:04 AM, September 12, 2008  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...

It's very difficult. RSOs are supposed to report their current addresses, and they are supposed to report when they change addresses. Some do, and it is put up on the State's RSO website as soon as possible.

People on parole are another matter. There is no online locator. Your best bet at getting that would be to contact the Idaho Department of Correction and ask. I believe, though, that a parolee's residence address is not public record.

7:35 PM, September 12, 2008  

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