Who is monitoring sex offenders' online activities?

Who is monitoring sex offenders' online activities? »Play Video
Convicted sex offiender Dustin Miller didn't want to speak to KATU this week about why he had a prohibited Facebook page. A source with knowledge about Multnomah County's sex offender supervision unit claims it's difficult for probation and parole officers to check up on what their offenders are doing online.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Who's making sure a convicted rapist like Dustin Miller is playing by the rules when it comes to social media?

He was told in May last year by his probation officer to take down a Facebook page he'd created for his business. But On Your Side Investigator Anna Canzano found three more pages or profiles this week tied to Miller, including a personal profile showing photos of himself with family and friends.

A source with knowledge about Multnomah County's sex offender supervision unit claims it's difficult for probation and parole officers to check up on what their offenders are doing online.

The county's social media policy discourages employees from using personal Facebook or Twitter accounts on the job. But as many Facebook users know, you can only view someone's profile if you have a Facebook profile yourself and you've logged in.

Multnomah County spokesman David Austin says parole and probation officers only investigate offenders using Facebook when they get information that an offender's online activities may be a problem. He disputes the idea that the county's system is allowing offenders’ activities to slip through the cracks.

Said Austin:

"At Multnomah County, we monitor thousands of offenders per day who have gone through the criminal justice system. This includes hundreds of sex offenders, who are subjected to a higher level of supervision than most of our clients.

"We employ a variety of computer forensic tools to track activity. These include a mix of a high-tech forensic lab, field visits, interviews with probationers, the use of GPS monitoring equipment, urinalysis, polygraphs and mandatory sex offender treatment.

"Use of social media by local government in any of its departments requires a coordinated and comprehensive strategy. Social media is a tool but it can't be used in isolation because it has its limitations, given that people can use fictitious information on websites. But if the public or our staff sees something on a social media website involving a sex offender, it's one of the things that helps us monitor activity.

"Like many in the law enforcement arena, we will continue to look at social media's possibilities as an additional resource in keeping the public safe, while continuing to rely on our staff and the tools we have in place. Our goal of protecting the public from sex offenders remains a top priority."

Anna Canzano contacted several other agencies Friday to assess their use of Facebook in tracking sex offenders.

Washington County

Michael Mollahan, the supervisor of Washington County Community Corrections' sex crimes unit, said parole and probation officers have a fake Facebook profile. He said they've used it to engage sex offenders in the past. And they have a stand-alone computer awaiting installation that they plan to use to dedicate to social media investigations.

Clackamas County

"As a practice, we’ll let offenders know Facebook’s policy which doesn't allow for sex offenders," said Clackamas County Parole and Probation supervisor Malcolm McDonald. McDonald also said officers don't "go out and actively try to engage someone using a fake profile, but there’s nothing stopping them from doing that."

Washington Department of Corrections

Will Mader, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Corrections that oversees parolees and probationers statewide said state employees are not allowed to create fake Facebook profiles to engage sex offenders, and they're not allowed to get on their personal Facebook accounts during work hours, but "if we find there is cause, exceptions can be made."