For a week, a level 3 sex offender was walking around Niagara County without his ankle monitor.
Police say Larry Keiper cut his monitor off on June 23. A few days later, he allegedly tried to kidnap a 6-year-old girl from her home in Wheatfield.
The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office says the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision failed to alert local authorities that the monitor wasn’t functional.
“It’s not the first time that I’ve heard this in my district” where parolees were off their monitors and law enforcement was not notified, said state Senator Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda. “That needs to change.”
DOCCS officials say they put out a wanted poster and a “be on the lookout” alert for all local law enforcement, but Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour says the departments are on two separate monitoring systems that don’t talk to each other.
“Seventeen or 18 states and the entire country of Canada use Offender Watch to monitor their sex offenders, and the reason they do that is because then everybody has the same data at their fingertips,” Voutour said. “New York State does not do that. Parole does not use Offender Watch, so anything parole does, we do not know about.”
William Cregg has been fighting for those changes and more for the last five years, ever since he rescued a little girl in the Syracuse area who had been raped by a man who removed his ankle monitor.
There’s been no change since that day.
"We're finding there are no standard operating procedures on how a department or probation office should handle once they find out that they have this level of a tamper alert,” Cregg said. “It's a perfect storm. There's hardware deficiencies. There's monitoring deficiencies. There's oversight, lack of oversight I should say in these departments. There's no auditing process."
Legislation was introduced in 2013 that would make tampering with an ankle monitor a felony in New York. Right now the action is considered only a probation violation.
The bill has passed the state Senate every year but has never passed the state Assembly. Ortt calls the legislation “a common sense bill” that should pass both houses.
Cregg says in the last six weeks there have been at least five murders across the country committed by people who cut off their ankle bracelets.