During my time as a probation officer, I served on an assignment that gave me the opportunity to track, via GPS, those convicted of certain dangerous crimes against children. This was almost exclusively involving sex offenders. Not only did I learn what an effective tool GPS technology could be in this capacity, but I also received an in-depth education in the unwavering mind of a predator. An education that all law enforcement professionals should receive.
My job was to hook the offenders up on GPS ankle bracelets. I would read the case files and get to know each one. Learn to think like them and then track their daily movements. I believed I fully grasped whom I was dealing with, but the almost immediate results were so unexpected that I was left frightened and, quite frankly, embarrassed by how little I understood the dangers many of them posed.
In the first two weeks, I saw multiple probation revocations; the offenders sent off to serve their prison time. Just days after their release from jail, they behaved like instinctual hunters returning to the grounds of past successes, spending hours within feet of their previous victim’s homes and, in one case, schools.
As time went on, others demonstrated even more disturbing and aggressive behavior. They slowly cruised the parking lots of in-session schools or entered the homes of past victims. Some managed to talk their way in, and others just broke in. One offender hid in his previous victim’s bedroom closet, waiting for her to return home. Another took a job at a construction site on school property, believing we “would never know.” It was all an unsettling insight into the forces that drive the minds of these offenders. Even knowing that they were being tracked, they were compulsively led to continuing their nefarious activities.
I became grateful for their nature’s seemingly uncontrollable overt side as I learned how cunning and skillfully manipulative some could be. They had a talent for gaining the unfounded trust of those around them — in some cases, including the supervising probation officers to whom I would make my reports. In response to my repeated concerns about a particular offender’s suspect activities, one officer fiercely defended the probationer, stating the man had been wrongfully convicted in the first place.
My intent is not to disparage anyone doing their best to supervise, investigate or otherwise deal with these offenders but to offer my experiences as a warning of this unique and shadowy threat to public safety. Perhaps I, too, would have been susceptible to their polished and practiced art of manipulation if not for the cold-tracking data that told me the true story. Even experienced and streetwise law enforcement professionals can fall victim to wishfully thinking that no human could be capable of perpetuating such unthinkable acts. In my opinion, there is no other experience in law enforcement that will prepare someone for the realm of the sexual predator. They operate on the fringes of even the criminal world, thinking and acting in ways beyond our understanding, pursuing goals beyond our comprehension.
This assignment was a journey down a long, dark tunnel, leaving me with the inevitable mental scars incurred by placing my mind in theirs, carrying with me unforgettable images and memories. Even so, I’m proud to have done my work in the name of the victimized, in defense of those who might otherwise have been victims, and for the ability to pass on what I’ve learned to those serving in the protection of their fellow citizens.