They came with cutesy names, such as “Operation Boo” or “Operation Watchful Eye”. They are sex offender compliance checks and multiple times per year, particularly around Halloween, law enforcement officers, usually in teams of half a dozen officers from different agencies including federal marshals, will pull up in front of the homes of persons forced to register as sex offenders, complete with marked cars and SWAT gear, to verify an address.

The operations are touted as multi-day and multi-agency. They are followed by headlines, such as “Operation Watchful Eye arrests 42 sex offenders statewide” or “40 Sex Offenders Arrested during Halloween Operation”, always implying that dozens of people were arrested for sexual offenses, but that is NEVER the case. For example, the first article admits, “During the one week operation, 7,878 residence verifications were conducted”. And “Thanks to an initiative involving 66 Georgia Sheriffs” 42 arrests were made.

There are a couple of things to consider here… First, 66 officers worked for one week on this operation. Assuming zero overtime, that’s more than $80,000 spent. Second, out of 7,978 residence verifications they made only 42 arrests. Effectively, out of nearly eight thousand investigations, about one-half of one percent resulted in an arrest. That’s pretty pathetic for the operation and pretty impressive for the people forced to register. But that’s not what these agencies’ press releases feed the public. The press releases talk about the “42 sex offenders arrested” because that’s the narrative that suits the police department. Next year hopefully they will get another $80,000 or even more budgeted and that’s what they care about.

Unfortunately that’s not the narrative that suits the public. The headline only perpetuates the fear that dozens of sexual offenses are taking place during any given week and but for the necessary work of these law enforcement agencies, their children could be sexually assaulted at any minute. The reality is that the headline could have (and probably should have) read, “Law enforcement spent one  week performing address verification on 7,878 people required to register and found 99.5% compliant”. The truth, however, does not suit the law enforcement agencies, who get millions in funding from the federal government.

The final thing to consider is the results. These are never new sex offenses or solved abductions. These are petty technical violations of obscure rules the rest of the public is not required to follow. If you took an equivalent number of people who committed property crimes and told them they were required to report in person to the sheriff’s office whenever their roommate’s auto tag changed or report, in person, to the driver’s license office and the Sheriff, if they went away for a long weekend, I’ll bet the numbers would be similar. Or, what f you subjected drug offenders to random urinalysis for the rest of their lives? Do you really think you’d get a 99.5% compliance rate?

A few months ago, Journalist Steven Yoder wrote an article in The Appeal, titled, “Why the U.S. Marshals Spend Millions on Sex-Offense Registrant Sweeps“. The article stated that “[s]ince 2006, the federal government has funneled millions into sometimes-massive operations to verify the addresses of those on sex-offender registries…. Meanwhile programs with proven track records in preventing sexual violence or successfully reintegrating people previously punished for a sexual crime get little federal help.” The article highlighted what’s completely obvious to us, but the general public is completely oblivious of because of these false narratives perpetuated by the law enforcement agencies in order to fool the public and defraud the federal check writers.

We need to do our part in educating the public and making them aware of the TRUTH behind these “operations”. We also should do our part to cut off the source of funding for these operations and ask that it instead be diverted to measures that prevent sexual abuse (such as educating parents and children about the warning signs of sexual abuse or heightened supervision in schools, where one in ten children are assaulted). Our part could include sharing this post with your local media or your US Senator or representative.

As an organization that is 100% on board with preventing sexual abuse, let’s use our numbers to actually do something about it.

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