Earlier this week I was speaking at a conference on the subject of sexual assault offenders. I discussed a study by Roy Hazelwood
one of the FBI’s pioneers in personality profiling of sex offenders. Hazelwood had surveyed 41 sex offenders and found that each one had committed between 10-78 crimes including 837 known rapes and 400 attempted rapes. These are sobering statistics I have offered hundreds of times at conferences but still have a hard time digesting and an equally hard time understanding how such a small group of predators could destroy so many lives while avoiding detection and prosecution.
On the trip home I was thinking about how critical it is for us to continue to educate our communities on those who prey on our children. Conferences are great but I still only reach a few hundred people each time. So I started brainstorming how I could use our blog or other social media platforms to inform people with the care and custody of our children that those people who harm children seek positions where they have access to children. How the sex offenders I have investigated or researched have resumes filled with years of volunteer service related to kids.
When I returned to the office I did a quick Google search on sex offender volunteers and here were the top two listings out of thousands of articles:
In Phoenix, AZ the Paradise Valley School District (Dec 2010) allowed a registered sex offender to volunteer at one of their elementary schools. Washington Brown, a registered sex offender, was convicted in the 1990’s for repeatedly having sex with a 14 year old girl.
The Fort Worth Independent School District ( Feb 2011) allowed a convicted sex offender to volunteer in the school and as part of the PTA. Jon Coots was convicted in 1996 of having sex with a child and served eight years in prison. It was a concerned parent, not a background check, that exposed the sex offender. Coots had purposely not returned his background check authorization form and the school still allowed him to volunteer.
These stories do not shock or surprise me. I have spent more than 20 years as a violent crime detective and violence prevention consultant, sitting across the desk from violent offenders, trying to get inside their head and gain an advantage that would allow us to prosecute them and protect our kids from them.
What shocks and surprises me is how many organizations working with children that choose the absolute bare bone minimum background checks. This is a war for our children and our enemy is investing much more deeply in reaching our children than many youth organizations are investing in prevention. This is a recipe for disaster.
Sex offenders are going to push on doors until they find one that is unlocked. When we expose a violent predator through a background check at SHS there is a moment of elation that is quickly replaced with a feeling of fear because we know this predator is not going to give up. We have blocked his shot but he is still in the game. He is going to move on to a new organization and find one that is not doing background checks or one that relies upon cheap database searches.
There are a multitude of rehabilitation programs for offenders but not a single shred of validated research that indicates a sex offender can be treated. We know that more than 60% of rapes are unreported so a criminal records check alone will not reveal all sex offenders. We have too many undetected rapists among us. Our first step is a comprehensive background screening program that includes a criminal record check and the second step is quality reference checks. Stay tuned over the coming months as we launch a very sophisticated online reference check system iRefcheck which will revolutionize your reference checking process for a few dollars a month and help expose undetected sex offenders.
The bottom line is sex offenders are attracted to children like magnets are attracted to metal so we need to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to keep our children safe.