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News >  Idaho

Federal grant will fund sex offender tracking, prosecution across state lines

Law enforcement agencies in Idaho’s five northern counties will use a two-year federal grant to join a nationwide computer network that makes monitoring of sex offenders across state lines more seamless.

In addition, the $494,000 grant will enable Kootenai County’s prosecutor to hire both a special prosecutor and an investigator whose sole jobs will be to track sex offenders and prosecute them when they commit crimes.

Following the lead of Canyon County in southern Idaho, which received the same grant last year, Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh applied for the money with assistance from the U.S. attorney’s office and the U.S. Marshals Service and the support of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors throughout North Idaho.

“The primary goal is to protect children,” McHugh said at a news conference Thursday. “To investigate and prosecute child victim crimes, including child enticement, child pornography and other crimes related to child victims.”

The partnership with the U.S. attorney’s office and the U.S. Marshals Service means the special prosecutor will be able to prosecute crimes in both state and federal courts. The investigator will be cross-designated as a special deputy U.S. marshal.

The cross-deputizing and training of the prosecutor and investigator to handle cases in federal or state courts “really eliminates these jurisdictional boundaries that these child sexual predators have used in the past,” said Rafael Gonzalez Jr., first assistant U.S. attorney for the district of Idaho.

“We just want to make sure for child sexual predators in Idaho, no town is safe for them to be without registering, no county, no state, no federal jurisdiction,” Gonzalez said. This money “gives us the tools to make sure that those who have to register, register, and that their registration is vigorously, vigorously monitored.”

There’s no guarantee of funding for the two positions after the two-year grant expires, McHugh said.

Kevin Platts, a Boise-based chief deputy U.S. marshal, said the software system that tracks the sex offenders should be operational within 45 days. In Southern Idaho, he said, the grant has allowed law enforcement agencies to check all sex offender registrations and find people who were not in compliance. He said they’ve identified sex offenders living too close to schools and have been able to educate the public about a website they can check to see where sex offenders live, as well as be notified when they move.

In Idaho, sex offender registries, by law, are handled by each county sheriff, said Kootenai County sheriff’s Maj. Ben Wolfinger. That information then is downloaded to the state’s system, which is monitored by the Idaho State Police.

“The beauty of this program here,” Wolfinger said of the new system, is “we’ll be able to track these people beyond our state borders. We’ll know if a sex offender in Spokane moves to Coeur d’Alene. We wouldn’t necessarily know that in the past. There’s a certain amount of self-reporting that has to be done (but) we’ll be able to follow up on those people and monitor them now.”

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