I just read the report about the success of “Operation Frostbite” recently carried out in West Virginia. I was one of the 369 registered citizens that were checked on, and I have a few thoughts on the subject.
“Operation Frostbite”: Why do they need a name if not to pander to and sensationalize for the press? This was a compliance check, so why not just call it that? Is it because the headline “State Police, U.S. Marshal conduct sex offender compliance check” just doesn’t sell like “State Police, U.S. Marshal round up sex offenders in ‘Operation Frostbite’ effort“?
U.S Marshal John Foster stressed to reporters at State Police Headquarters in South Charleston that the round up was not “a witch hunt.” Why then is it referred to as a “round up,” as though they were going after cattle? If an explanation is offered without prompting, like happened here – it is not a witch hunt — then it probably actually is, or why else say that it isn’t?
Foster said, “In no way, shape or form are we out trying to catch somebody to make it hard on them. However, the law does require that the West Virginia State Police go out and look for sex offenders and make sure that they stay in compliance.” This is correct; the law requires compliance checks be conducted, so again I ask: why are you referring to it as a “round up” or “Operation Frost-bite” instead of an annual compliance check? And why use the terminology “go out and look for sex offenders”? They weren’t lost. There is nothing to indicate that every one was not where he or she was supposed to be.
20% of the registered citizens checked had minor violations. Staying in compliance involves a great deal of detail and can be complicated. If I were running a business order process, for example, and my customers had a +20% failure rate in filling out the details needed to order, then I wouldn’t be in business for very long. I wonder if it is time to look at the process instead of the people?
2% of the registered citizens checked had serious violations: 4 had CP, 1 had a firearm in the house, and 1 had a warrant for a sexual offense, which is most likely a re-offense. The CP possessions will also be considered re-offenses of a sexual nature. This is slightly less than 2% re-offense, which is in the range of what most follow-up studies find and is very, very low.
State Police Lt. Michael Baylous said that because someone is not on the registry doesn’t mean he is not a sex offender and that “One reason could be that they simply haven’t been caught yet.” This was a compliance check of registered citizens. What significance does addressing those who have never been charged or convicted have in analyzing the results of the compliance check?
“ ‘Operation Frostbite’ is an annual roundup conducted by State Police and the U.S. Marshal Service to help keep children safe in West Virginia,” Baylous said. The implication in this language is that all registered citizens have convictions that involve minors. Baylous continues, “We are very fortunate to have them and that they’re helping ensure the safety of our children.” This appeal to the public is nothing more than a variation of the “If it saves one child” mantra. Using the resources of the U.S. Marshal Service to verify the compliance of individuals who are, apparently, 100% compliant in living where they should be living and 98% compliant with their compliance conditions seems to at least call into question whether this is the best use of those resources.