Special Assignment: SAFE Team Tracks Sex Offenders
With so much attention focused now on sexual predators and keeping kids safe, we looked into a specialized team devoted to keeping tabs on convicted predators living here in the Coachella Valley. KMIR6's Angela Monroe tagged along with the team. Video by kmir6.comvideo
With so much attention focused now on sexual predators and keeping kids safe, we looked into a specialized team devoted to keeping tabs on convicted predators living here in the Coachella Valley.
Nearly 1,000 registered sex offenders call the Coachella Valley their home. Three times that live in the county altogether.
We tagged along with a special safety unit keeping a close eye on these perpetrators.
Like me, you may be surprised and alarmed where these convicted criminals live.
The SAFE Task Force knocks on the door of Braulo Alegria, a convicted sex offender.
"Supposedly it was one of the sons that he said I molested him or, which I didn't think so, I used to give them baths," said Alegria
"Most molests occur within the family, or a neighbor, a trusted relative or friend," said Safe Team Senior Investigator, Carren Robinson, with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.
"Yeah, that was my ex-wives kids," said Alegria.
"Did you own up to the crime, or are you saying you didn't commit the crime?" Robinson asked Alegria.
Alegria responded, "Well, yeah, to certain extent, yeah, you know."
Alegria is 83 years old. He was convicted about 15 years ago.
"Just, well actually I don't think it was that bad, it's just like I said I never knew what they questioned the kids about," said Alegria.
The SAFE team checks up on the more than 3,500 registered sex offenders, like Alegria, living in Riverside County.
The team consists of investigators from the the district attorney's office, probation department, and the sheriff's department.
Most of the sex crime registrants we checked on were convicted of child molestation.
"I think what we have to do is educate the parents and the public, if some child tells you something take it seriously," said Robinson.
Senior Investigator Carren Robinson says children need a safe person to tell.
"They tell you, I was at school and my teacher touched me inappropriately or a family friend touched me this way, and you go, oh you're just exaggerating, they're not going to tell anyone else and that crime is going to escalate or continue," said Robinson.
As we drove to the next house, we noticed these sex offenders live near schools and parks.
"The community has a misconception of where sex offender's can live, and can't live. It's being challenged in the courts right now and the only people that have those restrictions currently are the people who are on parole," said Janine Pettyjohn with the Riverside County Probation Department.
"Jessica's Law is contested because it's 2000 feet from schools, parks... so they were finding there was nowhere for them to live, so they were able to find unConstitutional ... so we get calls like that from the public all the time saying hey I know there is a sex offender and there's a school right across the street, how could he live there, well that's why we have Megan's Law and stuff, it tells you that person is a sex offender," said Robinson.
At the next stop, toys and children playing.
SAFE team members took time to speak to families around the area, letting them know that there was a registered sex offender living near and also informing them about Megan's Law and other precautions they can take.
11-year-old Eddy says his parents teach him and his siblings to be careful.
"My mom and my dad always say, always take care of your kids and your sisters," said Eddy.
Investigators say the chance sexual predators could re-offend is very real.
"We do see obviously reoffenses as far child molests and child pornography and those things that some people that we've arrested for those same crimes, have repeated or we look in their rap sheet and it's the same crime they've done more than once," said Robinson.
So we asked Alegria, "What is the main thing that makes you not want to reoffend again?"
Alegria responded, "Well I've learned my lesson, spent some time in jail, I never wanted to do anything bad, I'm 83 now so, wouldn't want to go back for any reason at all, so I'm married, and I'm happy now with my wife."
Meanwhile, the SAFE team scours the valley; checking on sex abuse criminals, investigating cases, and taking time to inform the community about the dangers their children face.
"This is our rivcosafe dot org, that's the website, and what it is is there's some kids stuff on there, if you go to the bottom of the page, its called Kidssafe, and when you go on there you look at different activities and it will kind of teach you stuff of what to be aware of, okay?" Robinson said to Eddy.
After saying goodbye to Eddy, it's off to another address, another perpetrator the SAFE team is keeping an eye on for you.
Just last week the SAFE team captured a 34-year-old San Diego man they say came to Moreno Valley to have sex with a 13-year old girl.