In Arizona, sex offenders are assigned to a notification risk level ranging from a low of 1 to a high of 3.
To determine where a sex offender falls in this range, prior to an offender’s release or sentence to probation, the agency that had custody of the individual completes a risk assessment screening profile, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (ADPS) website.
This instrument evaluates nineteen criteria that are considered to be significant factors contributing to sex offender recidivism — relapse into criminal behavior.
Each criterion is given a score, which is then totaled to arrive at the recommended risk level, the website states. All criminal justice agencies must use the standardized Arizona risk assessment.
Susan Fields, a sex offender coordinator with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, said much of the 19 questions in the assessment are fact based.
“It’s very cut and dried, black and white,” Fields said.
For instance, one criterion on the assessment is whether or not the offender has a record of previous sexual offenses.
“So if the person was engaged with behaviors they were charged with for a long period of time and there are multiple victims, then they are likely going to be a level 3, higher risk,” said John Morris, Chief Adult Probation Officer for Yavapai County Adult Probation.
Another determining factor is the gender of the victim/s.
“If there have been male victims in the past, that increases the risk,” Morris said.
The level of risk someone is classified significantly impacts his or her life moving forward.
Once registered a sex offender of any risk level, a person remains on that registry and is subject to some degree of law enforcement oversight for the rest of their life, Fields said.
However, level 2 and 3 offenders are watched much more closely.
“For instance, if we have a missing child, one of the first things we do on our check list is start checking sex offenders,” said YCSO spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn. “In such cases, we will probably go to the 2s and 3s first maybe in a five mile radius of where the child was last seen, but we have access to every known offender in Yavapai County.”
There are also special restrictions on where high risk offenders may live.
When someone is convicted of a dangerous crime against children, they cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or child-care facility. This does not apply to sex offenders on probation, minors or offenders living at an address before the school or child-care facility was established.
Additionally, no more than 10 percent of the residents of an apartment complex may be convicted sex offenders, and only one of those renters can be designated Level 3. The limitation does not apply to certain probationers, including offenders in treatment facilities, in supervised transitional programs where they receive services, or multifamily residences in industrial or commercial areas.
Level 1 offenders are not ignored, however.
“We supervise them based on risk, but that doesn’t mean we take our eye off the low risk folks,” Morris said.
Another major difference between the levels is how much access the public has to each sex offender’s general information.
Mandated by law, public notifications are released about level 2 and 3 offenders to the community those offenders are residing in.
These notifications identify who the offenders are, where they live, where they work and a summary of their status and criminal background. Such information is available to the public on the department’s online sex-offender tracking database, Offender Watch (http://bit.ly/2ihcq8F).
Law enforcement has complete discretion regarding community notifications for level 1 offenders, according to ADPS. Level 1 offenders are currently not listed on Offender Watch, but many may be by July 1, which is when ADPS is required to complete an update to its database using new guidelines passed by the state last August (http://bit.ly/2jc6ZHP).
Taking into consideration all of the risk levels, the United States Department of Justice and Watchsystems estimates that 80 percent of all addresses have at least one offender within 1 mile.
Because of this, D’Evelyn recommends everyone take a moment and check out Offender Watch.
“We have 506 offenders in the county,” D’Evelyn said. “That’s a lot of bodies. So there is a good chance you might have an offender down the road, or at least within five miles.”
Criteria for risk assessment screening profile
• Number of convictions.
•Number of convictions for felony offenses excluding sex/sex related offenses.
• Other sex/sex related arrests not resulting in conviction.
• Age at first conviction for sex/sex related offense.
• Use of weapon in sex/sex realted convictions.
• Total number of victims in all sex offenses.
• Gender of victims in all sex offense convictions.
• Relationship of offender to victim.
• Use of force (most severe).
• Other characteristics of sex/sex related convictions.
• Length of sexual offense history.
• Alcohol/drug usage.
• Mental/cognitive impairment of offender.
• Employment History.
• Presence of documented behavior which indicates multiple sexually deviant interests (check all that apply) — the list has 14 boxes to check, including fetishism, pedophilia, obscene phone calling, bestiality and necrophilia.
• Felony committed upon previous release from prison, jail, juvenile facility, or treatment center.
• Discipline history while in prison or jail, or juvenile facility, or juvenile treatment center (most serious).
• Substance abuse treatment.
• Sex offender treatment while in prison; or in the community (if no probation).
Normal flow of sex offender registration and management
• Offender commits offense that is punishable under sex offender laws and is arrested.
• Offender’s case works through the criminal justice system.
• Offender enters Plea or is adjudicated guilty by trial verdict.
• Judgment and sentence entered by court sentencing offender to a term of incarceration followed by probation of sex offender registration.
• Offender admitted to prison.
• Offender serves term of incarceration.
• Prior to offender’s release from prison, offender meets with Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) Pre-Release Division where Arizona Department of Public Safety assessment is completed, probation/parole alerted of incoming offender.
• In the unlikely instance that ADOC does not complete an assessment, adult probation/parole does it during their first meeting with offender after release or after offender has come under his/her caseload.
• Offender released to the community and told to contact local sheriff’s Office to register.
• Offender meets with probation or parole, offender’s housing choice is approved.
• If offender has never been registered in Yavapai County, he or she is fingerprinted and photographed during initial registration.
• Offender meets with sheriff’s office for initial registration — info uploaded to DPS through Offender Watch.
• Address verification conducted by managing agency.
• Community notification if level two or three (fliers) completed by managing agency.
• Community notification if level two or three (media) completed by managing agency.
• All information uploaded to DPS by sheriff’s office, DPS adds offender to public website.