Austin police working to improve system for checking on sex offenders

Crime

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department is looking at other police departments in Texas for ways it can improve the monitoring of sex offenders.

APD checks the compliance rate of 1,789 sex offenders in Austin. Each must register their address and some have to frequently check in with officers.

Sgt. Craig Smith with the Austin Police Department Sex Offender and Apprehension Unit said monitoring this population of people is a large task for his six-person team. Each detective is responsible for 250 offenders and each officer is responsible for 300.

READ: Williamson Co. deputies arrest man accused of failing to verify annual sex offender registration information

On top of that, 95 of the people they must monitor are homeless. The lack of a permanent address makes it difficult to keep track of them. They are required by law to check in every 30 days and must follow strict guidelines after conviction.

“If it’s a transient and he says I’m living at the park, he may not be there when I get there,” Smith said.

San Antonio police told KXAN they have over 1,200 more sex offenders than in Austin. Officers will regularly go out and track them down.

And in Fort Worth, Smith said there is a team of officers who devote 40 hours per week knocking on doors.

APD’s unit recently finished a five-week door-knocking program modeled after Fort Worth’s unit, which Smith hopes to implement full-time soon.

READ: What’s leading to the low turnout at the Governor’s temporary homeless camp?

“It keeps them honest where they know that, ‘Hey, I can’t not show up because they are going to come knock on my door and ask if I’m living there,’” Smith said. “We’re seeing where the shortcomings are and trying to fill in the gaps there.”

“We stay on top of it as best as we can. Would we like more officers? Of course. But we figured out a system that works for us and we do the best job we can,” Smith said.

Smith said four sex offenders have active warrants for failing to check in — meaning the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force is currently searching for them.

Tracking warrants

Austin Police recently began working with the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force.

The task force serves the Western District of Texas, including Waco, San Antonio, Midland and El Paso.

You can find a list of the outstanding fugitives the task force is currently searching for here.

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