We caught six Lubbock sex offenders using MySpace during our investigation. Three of them are back in jail. Authorities say most of the time, sex offenders are not to access the Internet at all. But some are allowed special conditions and those sex offenders are under the watchful eye of their supervision officer, through a computer tracking system.
Mike and Susan Ables have four kids. They do everything they can to protect them, especially their oldest, 13 year-old Brittney.
"I asked Brittney, you don't have a MySpace do you? She said, 'yeah, I do,'" said Susan.
"I had pictures of me and my friends on it. I had my name on it, but I didn't put where I was from," said Brittney.
Although Brittney probably did the right thing, her parents didn't like the fact she was on MySpace. They made her take it down. They feel good about that decision especially after we told Mike and Susan that we found six Lubbock sex offenders on MySpace.
"I'm sure there is more you have not found," said Mike.
That's probably true, because some use aliases so authorities can not find them. But Lubbock and Crosby Counties Adult Probation Director Steven Henderson says they do everything they can to catch sex offenders on MySpace. During our two month investigation, a sex offender on parole was arrested after NewsChannel 11 started asking questions. We asked them if Paul Gutierrez was allowed to be on MySpace. Hours later, Gutierrez was arrested. Two others we found with MySpace accounts had already been caught by their probation officers.
How did officers catch them? Most of the time, it can be as simple as doing a search on MySpace like we did for our investigation. But other times they have to rely on technology.
"The programs on the computers help us find where they've been looking," said probation supervisor Jennifer Mora.
Kurt Gibson is a system administrator for Adult Probation. He tells us if they are aware offenders have access to a computer, they require frequent checks of their hard drives. He showed us how the program works.
"What it's doing is scanning the entire hard drive. Sex offenders can download programs. It is called 'washing programs." They think they can get rid of it, but the programs find it," said Kurt.
"We've had some administration hearings on things that we have found. We have found leads that we have questioned sex offenders and they have admitted to some things before," said Gibson.
One problem though, the program only catches sex offenders after visiting prohibited web sites, which means a sex offender could quite possibly approach a teenager like Brittney before getting caught. "I never added anyone I didn't know or someone I thought could harm me in any way," said Brittney.
"I don't have distrust in her because I know she'll do the right thing. I just worry about her not knowing what the right thing is because of these predators," said Mike.
Probation and parole departments also rely on random polygraph testing. They use that method to ask sex offenders if they have been in contact with children.
A sex offender's computer can be scanned as often as every day. Mora says it depends on the offender. In Patrick Wong's case, a sex offender who was granted access to the Internet because of school purposes, his computer was scanned once a week.
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