County sex offender audits on the rise

COAST CITIES — About 4,000 sex offenders are registered in San Diego County, and more than half of them received a knock on their doors last year by the San Diego Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement, or SAFE Task Force, which is more than double the number of offenders who were visited by authorities in 2009.
The audit numbers were released earlier this month, and show that from Chula Vista to Oceanside almost 1,000 more sex offenders were personally contacted in 2010 than in 2009.
SAFE provided manpower to nine local police departments, including Carlsbad and Oceanside, for audits performed in the region.
Every city and sheriff’s department in the county has sex offenders assigned to them from the state, said David Collazo, multi-agency supervisor of SAFE.
When sex offenders are released from prison, they must tell prison officials where they are going to reside, he said.
“They’re required within five days to register with the police department or sheriff’s station when they get out of prison,” he said.
The offender must also keep authorities informed of what vehicle they drive and where they work.
“But what they give us isn’t always accurate,” Collazo said.
That’s when the audit becomes an essential part of the monitoring process performed by SAFE, which includes the tracking of sex offenders from an array of agencies such as state parole, the county’s district attorney and parole, California Department of Justice and local law enforcement agencies.
Aside from the SAFE Task Force, there is a lot of overlap from the different agencies that participate in monitoring sex offenders, said Lt. Kelly Cain of the Carlsbad Police Department.
When a sweep takes place and registered offenders are contacted at their noted residence, members from agencies throughout the county participate, he said.
Carlsbad participated in a sex offender sweep in 2010 before and after Chelsea King went missing, Cain said.
Chelsea, 17, disappeared Feb. 25, 2010, while jogging at Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Chelsea’s body was found in a shallow grave near Lake Hodges shoreline on March 2, 2010.
Her disappearance came one year after Amber Dubois, 14, who was still missing after never showing up to Escondido High School one day.
Amber’s body was also found in a shallow grave, on March 7, 2010, at the Pala Indian Reservation nearly 20 miles from her house.
Violent sex offender parolee John Albert Gardner III admitted to attacking, raping and killing 17-year-old Chelsea.
On April 16, 2010, Gardner pleaded guilty to killing both Chelsea and Amber and sexually assaulting a young adult female jogger in December 2009.
Gardner was a convicted violent sex offender who was released from prison in 2005, and placed on passive GPS monitoring. He wasn’t placed on active monitoring because the correction’s department’s static risk assessment tool didn’t specify him as a high-risk sex offender, according to a special report issued June 2 relating to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s supervision of Gardner, as previously published in The Coast News.
In May 2010, a San Diego Superior Court Judge sentenced Gardner to two life terms in prison for the rape and murder of Amber and Chelsea, and an additional 25 years to life relating to the attempted rape of the female jogger that happened near the area where Chelsea was murdered.
The goal of the SAFE Task Force, and other involved agencies, is to help keep communities safe.
Collazo joined the task force in January 2010, and after one year as commander for the Kearney Mesa-based agency the number of audits in the county increased by 1,102.
The increase in the number of audits didn’t come with an increase of personnel, but with some goals he said he had in place and hard work and dedication by the team.
“We go to their door,” he said about the registered sex offenders. “There’s 4,000 in the county and we hit 2,000 last year. It’s a big number. We do the best we can, five days a week.”
Audits are a necessary part of public safety, Collazo said, because an audit confirms the location of known sexual offenders for law enforcement agencies and the community. “Even more important, audits tell us when someone is in violation of registration laws or engaging in other criminal activity.”
It is standard for a parolee to have to adhere to being drug and alcohol-free, Cain said.
During an audit, a registered offender could be subject to arrest depending on the type of violation that may be found, he said.
Some offenders are prohibited from owning a laptop.
Some low-level offenders can own laptops, but if they are convicted of certain types of crimes they cannot possess pornography.
Each offender has individualized criteria to follow.
“In the process of prosecution, they are shackled with criteria of whatever their case may be,” Cain said.
But with overcrowded prisons, the system isn’t able to hold everyone who violates a term such as testing positive for alcohol or even drugs.
But Cain said the men who are serious offenders are dealt with seriously.
For Carlsbad, the number of sex offenders living in the city of approximately 100,000 residents is currently 55, but they are mainly low-level offenders who don’t require ankle bracelets, according to Cain.
The released number of audits shows that in 2009 that Carlsbad was not audited by SAFE.
But in 2010, there were 13 visits made to Carlsbad addresses of sex offenders.
For Encinitas, with a population of about 60,000, the number of audits in 2010 was actually decreased by six, because 15 audits were performed in 2009 as compared to the nine in 2010.
The number of audits for San Marcos, which has more than 83,000 people, was also lower in 2010 when 48 audits were recorded to take place, which is 17 less than the previous year.
But a huge increase of audits took place in Oceanside last year, when 140 sex offenders got surprise visits from SAFE.
In 2009, there were 52 audits made in Oceanside, which has an estimated population of 188,974 of San Diego County’s estimated total of 3,235,675 dwellers, according to the city of Oceanside.
For both Poway and Escondido, two of the county’s inland cities that each suffered the devastating loss of an innocent teenage girl to the hands of a violent sex predator, the number of audits in 2010 was up.
Poway, a high-income, low-crime area of less than 50,000 people according to the city’s latest demographics in mid-2009, had seven visits to sex offenders from authorities in 2009, and 87 audits in 2010.
Escondido, a populated city greater than 68 square miles with approximately 44,000 less residents than Oceanside, had 15 visits in 2009, but records show that 67 visits were made in 2010.
For law enforcement, knowing the whereabouts of a registered sex offender is an important aspect.
“If a murder, rape or missing persons happens, the first people we look at are the sex offenders,” Collazo said.
To see the location of registered sex offenders in California, visit


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