How does the system work in catching, helping sexual predators?

How does the system work in catching, helping sexual predators?

CREATED May 2, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – They walk amongst us; they work the jobs we do; and they look like us – we are talking about sexual predators. Nine On Your Side has learned that there are 1700 of them right here in Pima County. So is the system effective at monitoring them? And what kind of treatment do they get?

Out of the 1,700 sexual offenders, only 400 predators in the county are on probation and being monitored; the others have gotten out of prison, just moved to the area or are no longer required to be monitored. And there’s a chance some of them are living right in your neighborhood.

For more than three decades, Barbara Johnson has been supervising Sex Offender Unit at Pima County’s Adult Probation Department. She told KGUN9 News that the average age of predators there is 50 years old – and it’s not that they offend later in life, but that’s when they’re usually caught.

“The typical profile of a sex offender is that they have no criminal history. They were successful in jobs. They’re engineers. They’re teachers. They support families. They own their own homes. They have no history of drug or alcohol abuse,” Johnson said.

Although some critics may believe the courts are generally lenient sex offenders, Johnson explained that probation for their crimes is often long-term. About 40 percent of predators in the Sex Offender Unit are on lifetime probation, which is a good thing because treatment takes a long time. It involves individual and group therapy and intense supervision.

“They bring a lot of history with them. So as we all know, when you develop habits or muscle memory over the years, it’s hard all of a sudden to change that now,” Johnson explained, adding that they never use the term “cured.”

So what’s a sign that the system actually helps predators, while protecting the community? Reporter Claire Doan asked Johnson that question.

“Statistically – and I know this is hard for individuals who do not work with this population to grasp – but sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate if they received supervision with treatment,” Johnson responded.

Johnson says there’s a loophole in the system, because community-wide alerts don’t apply to low risk, Level 1 predators. However, she added that predators prey on people they know.

“By far, most individuals whether they’re children, teenagers or adults, when they are molested or violated, are violated by people they know,” Johnson said.

In addition to having the lowest rate of re-offending, compared with other kinds of criminals, sexual offenders also have the lowest rate of absconding – because punishment for getting probation revoked is very severe.