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Program gives police alerts when offenders get out

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When convicted Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration shooter Shamus Patton surrendered after a car chase with guns last week, a lot of people were surprised.

They thought the man who pleaded guilty to shooting eight people on a Saturday night in July of 2010 was still in prison.

Not only was he a month away from being paroled, Patton had been living at a downtown Indianapolis halfway house, supposedly interviewing for jobs and getting his life together when he was pulled over at Falcon Drive and Edwin Court.

If local police and prosecutors had been registered with the Indiana Department of Correction Law Enforcement Notification System (LENS), they might not have known Patton was already out, but they would’ve learned he was due to be paroled from prison on July 16.

“There are literally thousands of men and women coming out of DOC back into our community every single year so we need to prioritize who we keep tabs on,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, who said he may direct his office to monitor the LENS program. “It is my understanding, at least on occasion, the assigned deputy prosecutor gets a heads up basically when someone has been released from the DOC.”

The LENS program is restricted to law enforcement officers registering on the DOC website and advises that Marion County participants could receive up to 50 emails per day.

Those reports would keep tabs on the movements of offenders and provides a 30-day warning about their impending release from prison.

Even though Patton’s June 16 update advised that he would be released from DOC oversight July 16, LENS did not reflect that the convicted felon had been housed at Brandon Hall since April 25 after he was assigned to the Marion County Community Corrections community transition program.

A spokesman for IMPD indicated that while the department does not utilize LENS on a widespread basis, the DOC-provided service is being examined to determine what officers would be best suited to receive such updates.

Each year an estimated 5,000 offenders are paroled to Marion County; 1,500 of them have never lived in Indianapolis. Many of them are at a risk to re-offend.

In IMPD’s northwest district, a pilot program pairs up a metro officer with an agent of the Department of Parole to welcome offenders back to the community, provide them access to services and warn them about returning to their criminal ways.

“‘We’re watching and we want you to change your behavior,'” Officer Greg Brinker tells parolees. “We want to provide them improvement, for instance, education, job placement, transportation, but, also to let them know we are watching and actually when a parole officer does a home visit, we can escort them as well.

Brinker added, “We feel if we have that one-on-one, face-to-face conversation with an IMPD officer along with parole we can begin jointly together to address the issues in this community, either robberies or shootings.”

Citizens and crime victims can likewise keep track of offenders in prison through the DOC SAVIN program, which allows neighbors, family members or crime victims to be advised if an offender is moved or is about to be released.

“Once he approaches his release date, we’re going to provide you notification 60 days in advance that he’ll be getting out,” said SAVIN supervisor Brent Myers. “We’ll be providing that notification again in thirty days and when he does actually get out, we’ll provide another notification indicating he has been released.”

Myers said SAVIN provides 35 different types of notifications, including escape and parole hearings. You can sign up for it at the SAVIN website.