The city pool attendant’s eyes opened wide when she was given the news by Bob Bromps.
A convicted child molester is missing and suspected of hanging out across the street from the Cannon Park pool – where dozens of children were playing in the summer sun – Bromps told the attendant on Thursday.
It’s all part of a day’s work for Bromps and seven other Department of Corrections officers in Spokane County.
They make scheduled and surprise visits to the 310 sex offenders in Spokane County, who have been released from prison but remain under state supervision. They investigate properties where convicted child molesters want to live to make sure the areas are relatively free of kids. They submit offenders to polygraph tests every three or six months to ensure they’re staying free of crime. They search for offenders who are missing. They monitor their treatment. They provide advice for them to get jobs and places to live.
“If your basic human needs are not being met, the risk increases for you to act out,” Bromps said. “So if somebody transitions from the most restrictive place that we have in our society and releases to the community which provides the least restrictive environment, well, if you don’t have a good plan, that risk is exceptionally high.”
Those under the watch of corrections officers are, however, a relatively small chunk of the 1,278 sex offenders living in Spokane County last week. Of those, 119 were Level III sex offenders, those considered the most likely to commit more sex crimes. Another 122 were Level IIs. The rest were Level Is.
Every convicted offender must register his address at least annually. They can register as homeless. Last week 54 sex offenders were registered as transients, a frustration for police detectives who follow them.
Spokane police make monthly contacts with Level II and III sex offenders. Outside Spokane city limits, Level II and III sex offenders are contacted by the sheriff’s office every three months.
On Thursday, Bromps made surprise visits to four offenders on supervision at the New Washington Apartments in downtown Spokane. Although not all the residents are offenders, it specializes in housing them. Alcohol and minors aren’t allowed inside. The halls are watched by cameras.
Bromps knocked on the offenders’ doors, and while asking serious questions about their progress and making friendly chit-chat, searched their closets and dressers for pornography and their refrigerators for beer. They were contraband free.
Those who committed their crimes after Sept. 1, 2001, are given five years, 10 years, or lifetime supervision by the department when released from prison. There are only a couple of sex offenders in Spokane County who have lifetime supervision currently, but that’s expected to change as more people sentenced under the new rules are released from prison.
“You’re not going to make the world perfectly safe,” said sex offender expert John Q. La Fond, who advocates strict monitoring of the highest risk sex offenders. “The notion that we can and should prevent all sex crimes is a wonderful ideal, but we live in an imperfect world, and the moral obligation is to prevent the most sex crimes as possible with the resources available.”