Mission to Stop Sex Offenders From Reoffending

PHOTO The picturesque county of Santa Clara, at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, is home to Silicon Valley and 3,000 sex offenders.

The picturesque county of Santa Clara, at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, is home to Silicon Valley and 3,000 sex offenders.

Policing sex offenders falls into the hands of 25 law enforcement officers who are part of a federally-funded task force called Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement, or SAFE.

"These are people who have just gotten out of prison or jail who are likely to reoffend," said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. "The recidivism rate for sex offenders is the highest of any type of crime."

Random visits are carried out to confirm that sex offenders who are considered to have a high propensity to commit another assault are living where they say they are and are obeying the detailed conditions that accompanied their early release from prison.

How Safe is Your Child?
How Safe is Your Child?

"Sometimes you'll see terms of probation that will include that they can't possess children's toys if their crime was a sex crime involving a child, or can't possess children's clothing," Smith said. "I've even seen terms and conditions of parole or probation that include 'can't possess a puppy or kitten.' We'll be looking at all those things. There is certainly a pornography prohibition."

"Nightline" accompanied SAFE on a typical day on the job, monitoring and tracking sex offenders. The first stop was the home of a 62-year-old former classroom assistant, who served a five-year prison sentence for multiple crimes against a 10-year-old girl.

After clearing the location, identifying the parolee, the police began the search. ABC News obtained permission from the parolee to follow the police onto his property to film their work.

While the police searched, we asked the parolee about his original offense.

"The original offense was the hug of the student," he said. "I worked with this student throughout the whole year and we developed a friendship during that time. ... She had low self esteem -- more so than any of the other members in class."

When we asked if it was possible by providing her with gifts, she was being groomed, the parolee said, "That's sort of the stereotypical view that was taken. I think that's part of [what] threw me into a category like a pedophile category."

Police Sweep Sex Offenders' Homes

The SAFE team searched his apartment for two hours. Sifting through the mountain of clutter in every room was a labor-intensive task.

"It makes it a lot tougher for us when we go in and search a residence if there is more stuff that we have to dig through," state parole agent Greg Weber said. "A lot of the stuff that we discover is not necessarily on the surface or in plain sight, but we'll have to dig."

This sex offender had been on parole for more than two years at the time of the SAFE sweep. It was only the police's second visit to his home, but he told us the visit was "overkill."

Although he was found guilty for the lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, possession of obscene matter depicting a child in a sexual act, and annoying and molesting a child, the parolee maintained his innocence.

Despite his attempt to play down the offenses, the parolee must also wear a GPS tracking device to ensure he's never in a location that places him close to children. Another condition of his parole explicitly forbids possession of any toys or children's clothing.

During the search, the police located a collection of toys in his home, and an Obi Wan Kenobi kid's costume.

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