The Riverside County Board of Supervisors today approved the implementation of an enhanced system to track registered sex offenders and advise residents when one moves into their neighborhood.
Supervisor Jeff Stone introduced the Sexual Predator Identification in Riverside County Via Internet Tracking -- or SPIRIT -- program, which will be maintained by the District Attorney's Office at an annual cost of $24,500.
Under the program, the D.A.'s office will provide an online map dotted with the known residences of individuals convicted of sex crimes.
The program will also permit county residents to sign up for notifications -- via postcard or email -- alerting them as to when a sex offender moves into the general area.
California Penal Code section 290 requires that anyone convicted of a sexual offense is required to register their home address with local law enforcement. The sex registrants must renew their registration every year and notify authorities within five days of relocating.
There are nearly 3,300 convicted sex offenders residing in Riverside County, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Assistant District Attorney Charles Hughes said the new system will be an improvement on the state's Megan's Law sex offender database, run by the California Attorney General's Office. According to Hughes, there can be a three- to six-month delay in posting new information on the state Web site.
With the county system, information will be "immediately available" to residents once local authorities have it, he said.
According to the prosecutor, neighboring San Bernardino County has a similar program in place, and authorities in the two counties will be able to share information to make sex offender monitoring more effective.
Stone previously cited the murders of San Diego County teenagers Chelsea King and Amber Dubois as examples of why an enhanced tracking system is critical.
Convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III admitted killing the girls and was sentenced to multiple life prison terms in May.
Amber's father, Maurice Dubois, a resident of Escondido, told the board that after meeting with local law enforcement officials up and down the state, he felt Riverside County was "the best in California" in its efforts to keep tabs on convicted sex offenders.
He noted the county's sex offender registration compliance rate is 97 percent, thanks in large measure to the county's Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement team, compared to 40 to 45 percent compliance rates in many jurisdictions.
"SPIRIT is an amazing step to put another tool out there to help the community, law enforcement and the citizens of your county," Dubois said.
Not everyone believes the program will make a difference, however.
Norco resident Julie Waltz, who recently won a settlement with the state over her right to protest a taxpayer-subsidized group home whose residents may include sex offenders, told the board bolder steps should be taken.
"Look at what just happened to that young lady in Moreno Valley," Waltz said, referring to the July 15 abduction-murder of Norma Angelica Lopez.
"We need big changes in the law," Waltz said. "Why are the (sex offenders) deemed incompetent to stand trial placed in nursing homes and homes for the developmentally disabled? Thanks to the state of California, your wife and child could be rape victims."
For more information on SPIRIT, click here.