"Taking the Next Step to Protect Our Community"
In February of 2005, 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford of Citrus County, Florida was murdered. On March 17th, 2005, with a criminal history spanning more than 30 years with 24 arrests, 46-year-old registered sex offender John Evander Couey was subsequently arrested and confessed to the killing. This case, while tragic, provided the impetus for the Punta Gorda Police Department to conduct a thorough self-assessment to determine if we were doing all we could do to protect our children and citizens from registered sex offenders and predators. "We asked ourselves if we were doing enough to protect our children, and we decided we could do more."
Thus was born the Punta Gorda Police Department's Sex Offender Monitoring Program.
The program has been a tremendous success in the City of Punta Gorda. Lauded on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as a "national model for law enforcement," the program is based on accountability. Cutting through the normal red tape and bureaucracy, the program puts the supervision of registered sex offenders and predators in the hands of those most capable and qualified to protect our children, our police officers in the field. Here is how the program works.
Daily Monitoring of FDLE Website
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement "Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators" website is screened daily for any new registered sexual offenders or predators who reside within the incorporated city limits of Punta Gorda.
Once a registered offender or predator is identified within the city, a police officer is dispatched to verify the residence of the individual.
Upon verifying residency, the Criminal Investigations Section of the department quickly begins compiling an offender profile. This comprehensive evaluation of the offender includes the offender's criminal history, facts of the case related to the offender's crime(s), a background on the offender, and conditions of probation and parole, if applicable. This profile enables the Punta Gorda Police Department to compile a "threat assessment" which assists in targeting specific actions and responses to protect our community.
The offender profile is handed over to the Operations Commander who immediately assigns the offender/predator to a Punta Gorda Police Officer. The department maintains a waiting list of officers who have volunteered and are standing by to be assigned a sex offender. From that point forward, this assigned officer is responsible for the supervision and monitoring of the offender.
In conjunction with the officer assignment, the Community Services Sergeant is already preparing a "Neighborhood Assessment" designed to evaluate the Punta Gorda neighborhood in which the offender lives. Included in the
Neighborhood Assessment are the following items:
- Utilizing aerial GIS photographs of the offender's neighborhood, a
- residential "door-to-door" notification radius is established;
- A one-mile radius on-line search is conducted to identify any Schools and Day Cares in the area;
- Additional at-risk locations are identified (libraries, playgrounds, etc.);
- The School Board Transportation Department is notified so that bus stops can be re-evaluated;
- Community notification flyers (the offenders photograph in color) are printed.
With help from his or her squad and fellow officers, the assigned officer conducts community notifications based on the Neighborhood Assessment. The following notifications are made:
- Flyers are hand-delivered by police officers to every residence within the predetermined perimeter of the offender's home;
- Flyers are hand-delivered by police officers to every school or daycare within a one-mile radius of the offender's home;
- Flyers are distributed to any other at-risk locations, as identified by the neighborhood assessment;
- The City of Punta Gorda website posts a warning to all residents identifying the name, address, and photograph of the sexual offender/predator;
- An immediate e-mail is distributed to all City of Punta Gorda employees identifying the name, address, and photograph of the sexual offender/predator.
Continuous offender monitoring by the assigned officer consists of the following:
- The assigned officer is required by department policy to personally contact the sex offender a minimum of once each month. The officer becomes familiar with the offender's place of employment, vehicles, compliance with conditions of probation/parole (if applicable), and compliance with residency reporting requirements;
- The assigned officer personally contacts the offender's parole/probation officer (if applicable);
- All contacts with the offender are documented in a computer-based detailed report designated specifically for that offender.
The Punta Gorda Police Department's Sexual Offender Monitoring Program has been an enormous success. Here are some of the benefits realized since the program's inception in April of 2005:
- The Police Department has received tremendous positive community feedback and appreciation for the proactive nature of the program;
- The program has received national media attention and feedback from law enforcement agencies across the country has been very positive;
- The City of Punta Gorda has seen a reduction in the number of sex offenders residing in the city since the inception of the program;
- The program has forged a stronger alliance between the Police Department and Probation and Parole. Communication between law enforcement and the Department of Corrections is key to the successful monitoring of offenders;
- The program is extremely popular with Punta Gorda Police Officers and creates personal accountability on behalf of officers, who take tremendous pride in protecting their community.
Warning to Sexual Offenders or Predators: The Punta Gorda Police Department aggressively pursues and arrests any sexual offender or predator who moves in to or out of the City of Punta Gorda without complying with all residency reporting requirements required by the State of Florida. This is a zero-tolerance policy.
For more information on the Punta Gorda Police Department Sex Offender Monitoring Program please contact:
Captain Norm Nahra
James Patrick McGrath
Michael Joseph Mellin
The Punta Gorda Police Department Sex Offender Monitoring Program only consists of registered sexual offenders and predators (in accordance with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Sexual Offender website) residing within the incorporated city limits of Punta Gorda. For additional information visit the FDLE Sexual Offender and Predator Search Site.