HELENA – Lewis and Clark County is joining a national database, to update its processes for monitoring registered sexual and violent offenders.
At their meeting Tuesday, the county commission approved $4,000 for a one-year contract with Offender Watch. The nationwide company collects offender information from thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country, then makes it available in a single database.
County undersheriff Jason Grimmis said, currently, the sheriff’s office has to collect and manage all information on registered offenders manually. He said connecting to the Offender Watch database will save a great deal of work for the department.
“Instead of reinventing the wheel, we’re just taking advantage of technology that’s out there,” he said. “It’s not real costly. The benefit’s going to certainly outweigh the $3,500, $4,000 that we’re putting forth.”
Grimmis said Offender Watch will also improve the county’s ability to notify the public about offenders living around them. He said there will eventually be a public website where residents will be able to search their neighborhoods.
“It’s very interactive for the citizens of Lewis and Clark County,” he said.
Offender Watch’s services are already being used by law enforcement agencies in 36 states. Grimmis said Lewis and Clark County will be the first jurisdiction in Montana to sign up. He said he hopes other law enforcement leaders in the state will look at the system.
“I’ll give them updates as to how this system is working for us, and how much of a benefit it would be to have more agencies, at both the local and state level, jump on board with this, so we can all be talking the same language,” he said.
The Offender Watch contract will be up for renewal each year. Grimmis said, starting in 2019, the Helena Police Department will share the costs. He said the East Helena Police Department could also join with them at a later time.