Visitors to the Roosevelt County Sheriff Office’s Web site will find a map that pinpoints where the county’s registered sexual and violent offenders live.
That’s just one part of a team effort between the sheriff’s office and the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes to keep track of the convicted felons who live in their jurisdiction.
“All Indian Country has a high percentage of sex offenders on the reservation or in their counties,” Roosevelt County Sheriff Freedom Crawford said Wednesday at a meeting with tribal and law enforcement officials.
The Fort Peck tribes collaborated with the U.S. Marshals Service in Billings to put on the meeting held at Montana State University Billings. About 40 people from four of the state’s tribes, five county sheriff’s offices plus state officials and the Marshals Service, met to talk about how to work together to create sex offender registries.
The discussion comes out of the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. That act requires convicted sexual offenders to register where they live, work and attend school with a state registry every three, six or 12 months, depending on their placement in a three-tiered threat level system.
U.S. marshals have authority to enforce the act nationwide. As the state registration and notification system is implemented, the federal office is helping American Indian reservations across Montana comply.
The Fort Peck tribes are the furthest along in the process, said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Rod Ostermiller. The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting, he said, was to share the successful model developed by the Fort Peck reservation and the sheriff’s office and use it as a model across the state.
Crawford, who was elected sheriff in 2006, initially set up a meeting to develop a partnership with Fort Peck to work on a registry. The tribes signed a memorandum of understanding with the sheriff’s office to develop the registry and enforce its use by sex offenders and violent offenders who live in the county and on the reservation.
The two entities created a team to work closely together, Crawford said, with one purpose in mind.
“I think we’re all here to protect our most innocent and pure resource, our children,” he said to the group on Wednesday.
Too often in the past, he said, sex and violent offenders have used reservations as a place to hide from law enforcement authorities. That, coupled with jurisdictional loopholes and tensions between government and law enforcement agencies, has made it difficult to effectively track offenders’ whereabouts.
Along with collaborating with the tribe, Crawford said, he has worked closely with the U.S. Marshals Service and the state’s Department of Justice.
Because of the cooperation between all the entities, Crawford said, “we are 100 percent compliant with the Adam Walsh Act.”
Patty McGeshick, director of the Fort Peck Tribes Family Violence Resource Center, said the tribe applied for and received a grant to help other tribes duplicate its model. Wednesday’s meeting was part of the work of that grant.
In the afternoon, individual tribes met with law enforcement officials from their areas to begin discussing the steps they need to talk to develop a registry and enforce the other parts of the Adam Walsh Act. Afterward, each group reported on the next steps they’ll take.
The entire group agreed to meet again in the summer to compare results, including what works and what doesn’t. States and other entities have until July 2009 to comply with the standards set out by the federal act.