ELKO — The Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) program is taking hold by verifying 182 out of 187 offenders in Elko County.
“I want to give you a quick update on something we’re really proud of. It’s called the SMART Program,” said Roland Swanson, chief of investigations for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, after being introduced to the Law Enforcement Summit Wednesday by Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
There are a little over 8,000 registered sex offenders in Nevada, he said.
“In November of 2014, the Attorney General’s office awarded a $200,000 grant, through DOJ (Department of Justice) for the SMART Program,” said Swanson, explaining the program is designed to provide funding to rural, state and local law enforcement, through overtime payments, to view the “registering and maintenance of sex offenders” across Nevada.
Funding has been provided to 14 jurisdictions in the State.
“In the time since that funding was provided there have been four entities that have done an amazing job with this program today. The first is Elko County Sheriff’s Office,” said Swanson.
Douglas County has verified 77 out of 81 offenders. Humboldt and Winnemucca developed their own task force and registered 49 out of 57 offenders.
Throughout these sweeps, Swanson said there were several commonplace findings: offenders would register in one jurisdiction, but live a second, and work in a third jurisdiction in trying to maintain anonymity.
Other findings included that some offenders were incarcerated in other states, others were trying to evade warrants for other charges, and one died.
In 2007, the Legislature enacted Assembly Bill 579 in response to the Adam Walsh Act, creating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, he said, explaining how the program came to be.
Swanson said the aforementioned bill has been tied up in litigation since that time.
“As recently as Jan. 22, of this year, it was upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court. So, this was a very positive thing for our state and for law enforcement, with respect to sex offenders,” he said.
The sex offender registration guidelines have been changed by the Supreme Court upholding this bill.
He explained the tier system changed from zero, one and two to one — low risk offenders who register once a year; two — moderate risk offenders who have to register twice a year; and three — high risk offenders who are required to register every 90 days.
“The bottom line with this program, and the enactment of Assembly Bill 579, is this creates a significant burden on law enforcement,” Swanson said, explaining the rural nature of Nevada makes it difficult for registration and for law enforcement to monitor the offender’s progress.
Because the SMART Program is a grant funded program, there are certain administrative requirements that could place a burden on local law enforcement agencies.
“These sweeps are very important. These sweeps are very time consuming for these entities,” said Swanson. “The remaining counties are in the process of planning the sweeps that need to be done and they have the funding in place in order to compensate the officers for the overtime.”
Swanson said the Attorney General’s office may be able to help if agencies are unable to locate an individual through database searches.
Law enforcement officials came from around the state for the Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ meeting this week, and Laxalt hosted his third Law Enforcement Summit Wednesday.
These officials meet quarterly and it’s not often they congregate in Elko. The Attorney General meets with them periodically in conjunction with the regular quarterly meeting to go over statewide issues, said Police Chief Ben Reed.
He told the Free Press he is appreciative of the Elko Convention & Visitors Authority as it was the “perfect type of statewide conference” that could happen at the Elko Conference Center.
“We’re proud to host this group here in Elko,” said Reed, explaining they were happy to have the Attorney General there as well.
“These law enforcement summits have meaning and momentum ... and they are helpful for the State, helpful for our law enforcement community,” said Laxalt.
Sheriff Jim Pitts said the summit “shows the cooperation we have with the Attorney General.”