“The fact is. we can’t do surprise visits whatsoever,” says Gord Longhi, a probation and parole officer.
“As it stands, we’re not allowed to do any unscheduled or surprise visits and those are the ones that are most likely to capture these offenders being in possession of things that they’re not supposed to have, like internet or computers, or if they have children living close by in the building.”
When probation officers check up on the 403 sex offenders on probation and parole in Toronto, not only do they have to give them advance notice, they do it during business hours. That’s 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“Probation and parole officers (PPOs) generally work standard office hours on weekdays, which allows them to better facilitate access to programming and other community services for the individuals under supervision,” explains Greg Flood, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Community Services and Correctional Services. Officers can help offenders get to counselling, but they aren’t able to check if an offender is at home and complying with their conditions on weekends or after dark.
A scathing 2014 Auditor General report criticized these work hours, noting that probation officers “rely on local police to identify when offenders violate house arrest or curfew.” It’s the type of violation local police aren’t likely to catch unless the offender is already on their radar.
Previous story in this series:
The Pedophile Next Door: Life behind bars
Although local police verify the addresses of the 12,018 sex offenders on the provincial sex offender registry, they seldom do random checks. Detective Constable Mark Repa from Toronto Police’s Sex Offender Registry Enforcement Unit says “each division has a ‘top ten’ of high-risk sex offenders and they get extra surveillance and monitoring.” But most offenders will only see police when they register their address and police verify it, in person.
There are 1,798 registered sex offenders living in Toronto, and Repa says they have a 97% compliance rate in terms of address and name change registration. “The (sex offender) registry is often used as an investigative tool to solve sex crimes and other offences.” But the registry doesn’t prevent crimes.
Although probation and parole officers generally can’t enter an offender’s home without their permission, occasionally they do catch violations from the front porch. “At times we’ve found these offenders living with another person who has children- underage children- which is a clear violation of their conditions,” Longhi explains.
When that happens, they call the police. “It doesn’t happen all that often because we don’t get out to do home visits enough because of the policy. And quite simply, we are understaffed. We don’t have enough staff to do what’s required of us to supervise them.”
The Auditor General noted many lapses in offender supervision by probation officers, including “poor supervision of sex offenders.” Longhi agrees supervision should be better, but blames understaffing. “If you take a look at our counterparts in the federal system, they have a caseload cap of 25, and there’s no such cap for Ontario’s probation and parole case loads.”
As of Jan. 31, Ontario’s 860 probation and parole officers were supervising 2,993 sex offenders – along with 42,651 other offenders. Thats about 53 offenders per officer, depending on their region and case type.
“There are sex offenders everywhere,” Longhi explains, “In every neighbourhood in the province.”
How many registered sex offenders live in your neighbourhood?
The following database displays the number of registered sex offenders in Ontario by postal code. In order to use the database, insert the first three characters of an Ontario postal code and hit the search button.
If you have a legitimate Ontario postal code and the result is no records found, there are zero registered offenders in your postal zone.
Data provided by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, as of July 2015.