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By W. Gardner Selby October 18, 2012

DPS says team focus on sex offenders accomplished

In September 2010, Gov. Rick Perry announced that state agencies would team with local law enforcement departments to create Sex Offender Parole Violation Apprehension Teams, "which will arrest high-risk sex offenders who have violated parole.”

According to his office's Sept. 27, 2010, press release, Perry said: "These teams will coordinate with local law enforcement to conduct additional registration compliance checks on predatory, high-risk sex offenders.”

Perry said the state attorney general"s office, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which oversees prisons, would create the teams. "Although the various law enforcement entities in our state already work hard to corral these folks, this team approach will improve cooperation and communication and up the odds of their apprehension,” Perry said.

Did this promise play out?

By email, Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told us the DPS is steering the initiative.

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger told us by email that since 2011, the agency has teamed with other state, local and federal agencies in the arrest of 450 "felony sex offenders.”

Vinger listed examples of the agency"s work pursuing sex offenders in tandem with local agencies and others, though the teams described by Perry were not mentioned in the agency"s initial response.

So, were the described steps equivalent to the agency creating teams to arrest parole-violating sex offenders?

Vinger replied that at the time of Perry"s promise, the agency developed a "team” concept enabling multiple partnerships with law-enforcement entities to focus on sex offenders.

For example, he said, DPS joined forces with the U.S. Marshal fugitive task forces with an understanding they would focus on sex offenders.

Asked how the teaming had affected the apprehension of sex offenders in violation of parole or probation terms, Vinger specified that four efforts were launched just before or after Perry spoke in 2010 and the agency stepped up its focus on sex offenders. He said figures for apprehensions before the efforts began are not readily available, though, primarily because the majority of the launched programs did not exist prior to Perry"s vow.

Vinger said DPS criminal investigators and other personnel coordinate with local law officers to verify whether sex offenders live at their declared addresses. As a result, he said, more than 89 criminal cases have been initiated since 2011.

Also, he said, DPS prioritizes its checks of offenders who fail to register a home address upon release from prison; some 24 offenders have hence been arrested since 2011.

And, Vinger said, through the Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offender program, the Office of the Attorney General often assigns investigators to work with DPS personnel. Since the program"s formation in 2010, he said, 18 fugitive offenders on the "most wanted” list have been arrested.

Frazier, Perry's spokeswoman, said by email that the DPS's initial response to us shows the agency has teams in place to "arrest non-compliant sex offenders.”

This wasn't as clear-cut as we'd hoped. But we rate this promise as Kept.

Our Sources

Emails, responses to PolitiFact Texas, Tom Vinger, Media and Communications, press secretary, Texas Department of Public Safety, Aug. 31 and Oct. 12, 2012

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