Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Sex Offender Sweep
Sex offenders who are on probation require close and careful monitoring. One way the state keeps tabs on offenders is to make surprise sweeps to see if they are following the rules. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- Teams of state probation and local police officers swept though South Broward arresting nine people. They seized everything from assault weapons, drug paraphernalia, spears and swords, all from people on probation.
Brian Cobb was one of those arrested after a search of his Hallandale home turned up a pipe used for smoking marijuana.
Tom Sharrard, State Probation Department: "He is in possession of an illegal item that he would be arrested for on the street. It's not a major crime but it is a violation of his probation."
Cobb is a sex offender who relocated to South Florida after being convicted of sexual assault in Connecticut. He failed to register here and got put on probation.
Carmel Cafiero: "Why would you risk your probation?"
Brian Cobb: "I have no comment."
The violation sent him straight to jail.
Probation Officer: "We're with probation, we just came from a residence check."
The probation department has the right to search offenders' homes without permission.
Probation Officer: "Got any guns, knives, weapons I need to know about?"
Carmel Cafiero: "These sweeps take place on a regular basis, and unannounced is always a surprise when sex offenders are found to have weapons."
This team turned up quite an assortment at the home of a Davie sex offender. Including two swords, a club, a spear, a knife, brass knuckles and handcuffs.
Tom Sharrard: "My officers have to go into these houses, and they have to enter all the time. Anyone of these weapons could seriously hurt one of my officers."
Oscar Santos ended up in police handcuffs, as a result. He is on probation for failure to register after an earlier charge of lewd and lascivious molestation on a child under 16-year-old.
Carmel Cafiero: "Why did you have these weapons? What were you going to do with the brass knuckles and handcuffs?"
William Steers is a sexual predator with custody of his 2-year-old daughter.
William Steers: "Hey, mom, can you do me a favor? Can you drive out here, and can you pick these items up?"
He's on probation for sexual battery on a victim under 12 years old and lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 16.
Officers were troubled with what they found in his home.
Marny Lewis: "Well, we're concerned because he has some things that would be considered somewhat like sex toys."
Steers said the items belong to his mother, and he made arrangements to get rid of them, so there was no action taken against him.
William Steers: "I'm in a classification with all sex offenders, and it's not fair because everyone's case is different."
But it was the weapons in this car that left law enforcement officers shaking their heads. In amazement, two powerful assault weapons, an AR-15 and an AK-47. Frederick James had been reported using them to shoot at a tree in his Fort Lauderdale yard. Police found another gun under his bed.
Sarah Harrington: "These are guns known on the street as 'cop killers,' and they could kill somebody in an instant, and he could have hurt his neighbors. He could have hurt all the little kids that live in his residence."
James is not a convicted sex offender. He's on probation for burglary, but there was a warrant for his arrest for a probation violation. Although originally designed to target sex offenders, the sweeps have expanded to include probationers with outstanding arrest warrants, and based on what they found on this night, it was a wise decision.
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