Both Appriss and Watch Systems have partnered to provide their solutions to criminal justice agencies and communities nationwide. Together, the two cover over 100,000 sex offenders, approximately 25 percent of the registered sex offender population in the United States.
Using this technology, we have seen our business practice change 180 degrees. Every day we find new solutions within the application that we have not looked into before. We will receive calls or requests from agencies looking for information pertaining to a particular topic. In the past we would have to do a hand search through case files to get the information requested. Now, that information can be efficiently searched in the updated registry.
When we launched our first registry site in 1998, we could not notify other law enforcement agencies, from an automated standpoint, the sex offenders, who were in their jurisdiction. We couldn't answer that question because our system was not developed to support the management of registered sex offenders.
We would essentially look at several sex offender lists, often with different identification numbers and then compare to get the needed information. Even with this level of work, we couldn't speak with a great deal of confidence that all of the information was correct. Agencies can now go online and find answers to 99 percent of their questions.
In its first year, the new Connecticut Sex Offender Registry has greatly enhanced communication between law enforcement agencies across the state. We have more than doubled our output of investigations on a monthly basis. The more information we provide to police departments, the more requests we are getting from them because they realize the system is capable of doing more.
Police investigators approach us regarding specific physical characteristics, asking us to provide a list of registered sex offenders matching a particular description. We can respond to these requests in minutes.
We believe an integral part of the business that we do is to communicate across state lines. We feel very strongly about this in that states must learn to communicate effectively, or we fail to keep citizens accurately informed and protected. If the net has a hole in it, the fish will get through it. We work closely with about a half a dozen states. The biggest challenge is the understanding that we all have different criteria for classifying sex offenders. We have to be able to speak the same language, or we risk losing a registrant
Another advantage to this new registry is the support that comes with the service. Previous to this, we didn't have a point person or organization to call for IT support or simply to answer questions. Having a live person to walk through the service and answer our questions is something we weren't used to.
The other half of this new and improved registry is the public component. The enhancement has empowered citizens across our state to become more proactive in learning about offenders living near their homes. Change is some times difficult for people.
Initially we were getting a flurry of inquiries as to the inability to find specific information. Users were a bit overwhelmed by all of the features and abilities. Now we average one or two questions a week. We've received a lot of positive feedback from the general public.
Our department will receive requests from the general public to add a feature that is already available, they simply don't know its there. We will secure an e-mail address and send them the quick tips currently posted on the Web site.
We generally see an increase in public use of the registry during Halloween or other holidays. Otherwise, the use is generally consistent. We are giving the citizens of Connecticut a functionality they've never had before. We provide to the citizens of this state, the most up to date information on over 5,200 registered sex offenders. We encourage them to rely on the public website more frequently and to take advantage of all the features which are now available to them.
Sgt. Joe Biela is the acting commander of the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry Unit. Lt. Sam Izzarelli is a trooper with the Connecticut State Police.