Saturday, October 25th, 2014
Half-True
Lindbeck
"Two years ago Providence alone spent $50,000 a year notifying the school department" about residents in the state's sex offender registry.

Joee Lindbeck on Thursday, April 11th, 2013 in a House Finance Committee hearing

Assistant Attorney General Joee Lindbeck says Providence spent $50,000 in one year notifying schools about sex offenders living in the vicinity

Rhode Island state law and state Parole Board guidelines say residents in the community must be notified if a Level 2 or Level 3 (moderate or high-risk) sex offender is living in their neighborhood. Notifications are also supposed to be sent to schools, police departments,  daycare centers and community organizations that might have contact with the offender.

The costs associated with that requirement were raised at an April 11 hearing before the House Finance Committee. At issue was House bill 5557, submitted at the request of the attorney general's office, which would revise the state's sex offender registry system to comply with federal guidelines.

Under the bill, responsibility for notifying residents, schools, community organizations and businesses such as daycare centers about sex offenders living in the vicinity would shift from city and town police departments to the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety, which includes the state police.

During the hearing, two witnesses made interesting comments about how the proposal would cut notification costs for cities and towns.

One was Rep. Peter Palumbo, D-Cranston, whose statement is being fact-checked separately.

The other -- and the subject of this item -- was Joee (pronounced Joey) Lindbeck, a special assistant attorney general who heads the office's Legislation and Policy Unit.

"Two years ago Providence alone spent $50,000 a year notifying the School Department" about sex offenders. "This act would allow for e-mail notification alone," she said.

That seemed like a lot of money, so we decided to check that portion of her statement.

Because the data came from a report from the attorney general’s office, we made that our first stop. That office sent us a 2012 PowerPoint presentation that included cost estimates from several communities. There was quite a range.

We've ranked the communities by the number of current Level 2 and Level 3 offenders (listed in parentheses) because a community that tends to have more offenders is going to have to spend more. It's important to note that the number of offenders may have been different when these cost estimates were developed and that some may have ended up back in the Adult Correctional Institutions on a new charge or violating probation after they registered.

 

 

Per notification

Per year

Providence (163)

 

$50,000

Cranston (124)

 

$9,137

Pawtucket (39)

 

$3,261

Woonsocket (38)

$1,500

 

West Warwick (16)

 

$22,784

Central Falls (16)

$123

 

Warwick (15)

$1,365

 

Coventry (11)

 

$5,657

Cumberland (5)

$4,000

 

Newport (4)

 

$2,000

West Greenwich (4)

 

$2,000

Johnston (3)

 

$11,000

Hopkinton (3)

 

$2,550

Smithfield (2)

 

"Minimal"

Middletown (1)

 

$1,000

Richmond (0)

 

$1,000

 

When we asked about the source of the Providence number, the attorney general's office produced a memo from Police Chief Hugh Clements reporting the cost was "approximately $50,000 [that year] for the registry and notifications. [Detective Teddy Michael] indicated that the bulk of the cost is related to the notifications to the schools." Providence currently has 39 schools.

So the $50,000 was not just for school notifications, although most of it was.

David Ortiz, spokesman for Mayor Angel Taveras, said the total was $65,000 in 2009, $36,000 in 2010 and $55,000 in 2011.

How much of that was spent on school notifications?

Ortiz referred us to the Police Department, where Detective Sgt. Philip Hartnett, recently put in charge of Providence police's special victims unit, said firm numbers are not available. He said Detective Michael estimated that the schools took up roughly 60 percent to 65 percent of the money.

The costs were high, Hartnett said, because in 2011, the department has routinely sent notices to individual homes of students, although it was not required.

"There are 26,000 students in Providence and it had to be something like that two years ago," he said. "I was amazed by that myself, but it was out of an abundance of caution. The law actually says to notify the schools. They took the step to notify the parents of all the students."

Christina O'Reilly, spokeswoman for the Providence School Department, said when it gets a notice from police, it generates labels for all the students attending each school located within a half mile of a Level 2 offender or within one mile of a Level 3 offender. The labels go to the Police Department, which sends out the mailings, 45 of which have gone out since September. Bus drivers and principals are also notified by the School Department.

Hartnett said there are efforts underway to streamline the system. "Now we are trying to set up an automated telephone system so that a call would go out to each student when we notify the school."

The department was also trying to come up with posters, but with so many sex offenders to track in Providence, the posters quickly became outdated, he said.

As Lindbeck told us, "The real problem is, they move so much and you have to redo this every time they move."

Our ruling

Special Assistant Attorney General Joee Lindbeck testified that "two years ago Providence alone spent $50,000 a year notifying the School Department" about residents in the state's sex offender registry.

She was correctly quoting a memo regarding the approximate dollar amount but incorrectly attributed all of the spending on notifications to the School Department.

On the one hand, everyone we spoke with said the biggest chunk of money went for school notifications. On the other, it's clear from the people with whom we spoke that a significant chunk of that money went to notifying other entities as well.

We rate her statement Half True.

(If you have a claim you’d like PolitiFact Rhode Island to check, e-mail us at politifact@providencejournal.com. And follow us on Twitter: @politifactri.)