Photo by Paula Beltrán Pat Lykos, flanked by representives from the city and county
The three main local agencies dealing with sex offenders are merging their databases and monitoring operations and have improvements planned for how they go about tracking offenders who have tried to slip off the grid.
"In this economy, it's always better to combine resources with other agencies, so we don't overlap and so we can do a more thorough job," said Harris County Sheriff's Office Major Michael Wong.
Wong added that although "it's just the nature of the business that some [sex offenders] will fall through the cracks," this new system will ensure that "sex offenders will have a one stop place to come -- it'll actually be easier for them -- and fewer people will fall [through the cracks of the state-of-the-art new system]."
Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos thanked Texas State Senator Tommy Williams and State Representative Debbie Riddle for introducing and pushing legislation for a single point of registration for convicted sex offenders.
HPD and the Sheriff's Office will work with the Harris County Inter-Agency Sex Offender Council, she said.
The reorganization will have another important aspect, Lykos said: crime victims and sex offenders will no longer have to be in the same room when visiting the Lockwood location, which was the norm until now.
Felons have seven days to register after they're released but as most are "flat discharges" (meaning not released under parole supervision) their failure to report usually goes unnoticed until it's too late.
Up until now, law enforcement agencies depended on the kindness and timeliness of the prison system to notify via fax each of the 34 individual municipalities every time a convicted sex offender was released back into the specific community.
Under the new plan, the prison system will now automatically transmit all paperwork electronically to the formerly HPD-exclusive 8300 Mykawa Rd. location, headquarters for the new task force.
If needed, Lykos said, she will write a personal check to the prison system to ensure that they purchase a scanner.
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Michael Dirden, HPD's executive assistant chief, said the changes would improve the process in several ways.
"This is an additional measure of accountability. We're not duplicating. We're giving law enforcement officers, real-time info," said Dirden.
"This is effectiveness, this is efficiency, this is what government is all about, protecting our people," Lykos summed up the value of the initiative.
Last year HPD registered approximately 3,700 sex offenders and 1,800 registered with HCSO, stated Dirden.