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GPS to Keep Tabs on Sex Offender

Satellite system will allow tracking of a Mead Valley parolee who is the target of protests.

June 21, 2005|Stephanie Ramos | Times Staff Writer

Registered sex offender David Allyn Dokich, the target of an ongoing community protest in Mead Valley, this week will become the second man in California required to wear a GPS tracking device as a condition of his parole, state authorities said Monday.

Dokich will be one of 500 high-risk parolees who by the end of the year will be monitored with a global positioning system device, part of a state pilot program being implemented this month, state corrections officials said. The first to put on the device is a parolee in San Diego who began wearing it Friday.

Dokich, 52, was convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl in his Dana Point apartment in 1982, and of the kidnapping and rape of a 16-year-old girl while on parole in Riverside County three years later.

He remained in prison until earlier this year, when he was released on parole and placed in a halfway house in Mead Valley, near Perris. Five other parolees live at the home, including another registered sex offender.

Although Dokich has come under intense scrutiny by neighbors and Riverside County officials, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections said that Dokich was not unique.

"There's nothing special about Dokich," Jeff Fagot, parole administrator for a five-county region that includes Riverside County. "Obviously, given the attention he has received, he would be likely to be among the first, but the fact is that he would have received the device with or without [controversy]."

The state's decision to equip Dokich with a GPS tracking comes a month after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance tightening restrictions on where convicted sexual offenders may live in the county.

However, County Counsel William Katzenstein told supervisors that they might have overstepped their authority and that the ordinance would be conditional pending a review by the California attorney general.

Supervisors acted, in part, because of the uproar caused by Dokich's move to Mead Valley. For nearly two months, residents have protested nightly in front of his halfway house.

On Monday, some protesters said that even with a GPS device, Dokich remained a threat.

State and area officials disagree. Unlike the traditional electronic monitoring device, which allows police only to see if a felon has violated a curfew or left the area designated as his home, the GPS tracker is more precise, said Joe Ossman, a state parole department administrator.

The unit also is tamper-proof, he said. If its strap is cut, an alarm will sound, and the police and parole authorities will be notified immediately and given the parolee's location.

Weighing only six ounces, the GPS device is the size of a computer mouse and is made to be strapped to an ankle. The one-piece device is waterproof to a depth of 15 feet, allowing for showering, bathing and swimming.

"The GPS monitors, collects and records all movements and location data of every parolee 24/7," Todd Slosek, Department of Corrections spokesman said. "It's a more concrete way to track parolees."

The system will be set up to transmit information at least once a day via e-mail, fax, phone or pager to parole officers or law enforcement officials. In the event of a violation, or if the parolee enters a "hot zone" -- an area too close to a playground, for instance -- authorities would be immediately notified of the violation and its location. Software will also help authorities match locations and times with crimes that have occurred.

In Dokich's case, in addition to the GPS tracker, he will keep the old-style electronic monitoring anklet he has worn since his parole. At least to start, he also will remain under the surveillance of two parole officers from 8 p.m. to 6 am.

"Hopefully [the GPS] will add a more thorough layer of security that will help alleviate some of the concerns of the public," Slosek said.

But Cindi Ramirez, area resident and mother of three, said she believed the only solution was to move Dokich to a community without children.

"We're going to be out here protesting every night until they do it," she said.

In accordance with the new county ordinance, no sex offender can live within 1 1/2 miles of schools, libraries, parks or recreational centers where minors gather.

California law also requires that the state give counties 45 days' notice before violent offenders are paroled, and it prohibits sex offenders from living within a quarter-mile of elementary and junior high schools. The ordinance passed by the Riverside County supervisors would require 60 days' notice.

State Sen. Jim Battin (R-La Quinta) will attempt to expand the Riverside County ordinance statewide June 28 when he brings a bill to the Assembly's public safety committee.

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