Video by Chauncy Miller
Concerns over how the Sheriff’s Department and parole board inform residents when and where sexual offenders are being released in their area were brought up at a community meeting in De Luz on Saturday, June 14, after area residents became aware that a convicted rapist was living in their community.
De Luz residents began alerting neighbors, public officials, law enforcement, and news media that Barrett Littleton, who served 24 years for raping a 25-year-old Pacific Beach woman twice and forcing her to engage in oral copulation in 1988, had moved into their community. His original sentence was for 48 years, in addition to a 15-year term for three prior sex-related convictions in the 1970s.
According to Fallbrook Sheriff’s substation commander Lt. Art Wager, Littleton was released from prison approximately one year ago, and had lived in Campo and San Diego, holding various addresses of residency. At one point, Littleton had registered as transient, and had been living in his car. In April, Littleton moved to the Fallbrook area and listed a residence on South Mission Road. In May, Littleton moved to De Luz. All of these changes in residence had been done with proper information provided to Littleton’s parole officer.
“I was made aware of [Littleton] about the same time as the rest of the community, but only because I was not briefed specifically about him,” said Wager to the large crowd that met at the Volunteer Fire Department Station in De Luz. “He had complied with the current policies for parole; however, this is forcing us to look at our policies, and has garnered attention all the way up the chain of command.”
According to Luis Patino, a public information officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), Littleton’s parole agent had personally escorted him to the Sheriff’s Fallbrook substation to register as a sex offender.
“Sex offenders have to be released in the county of their last legal residence,” said Patino. “Littleton had come from the San Diego area.”
According to Sheriff’s detective Tom Janenko, who is with Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE), there are approximately 840,000 sexual offenders in California, with 4,562 registered offenders living in San Diego County.
“That number also includes offenders that are currently incarcerated or deported,” said Janenko. “These numbers are constantly changing, and these people are constantly moving.”
Janenko also stated that 450 of those offenders are on active parole in San Diego County, under the Sheriff’s jurisdiction. In Fallbrook, there are currently 62 offenders registered, with 56 living in the 92028 area.
There are four basic levels of information released to the public depending on the offense of each registrant, explained Janenko.
“If someone moves to California and were registered in another state or country, they can be requested to register here as well,” he said.
A perpetrator of the highest level of offense is called a sexually violent predator (SVP), who is typically diagnosed with mental disorders that include sexually prominent behavior.
“These offenders go through with a court trial, and some are committed to a state hospital,” said Janenko. “Some are committed for five to six years, and others are in there for 30 to 40 years. They are evaluated regularly, and when they satisfy the requirements of treatment, they are integrated back into society.”
SVPs are constantly and heavily monitored, said Janenko. Currently, there are six SVPs in San Diego County.
The second tier of offenders have their full addresses given on the Megan’s Law website. Because Littleton’s full address is given, along with his convictions, he is placed in the second tier of offenders. Third tier offenders only have their zip codes given, and the fourth tier offenders have no information given on the website.
“In 92028, there are 32 full address offenders, five zip code only offenders, and 19 do not show up on the public side of the database at all,” said Janenko. “There is one SVP in the Fallbrook area, but he is not in the 92028 area, and his last name is Mercer.”
Janenko stated that it was important for the community to educate itself regarding those who live in the community.
“Talk to your neighbors,” he said, also stating that the information on the Megan’s Law website could be slightly misleading. “The specific number of criminal offenses and arrests are over a lifetime.”
The purpose of Megan’s Law is to provide residents with information to protect themselves as offenders transition back into society. Patino stated that before a parolee can move, a CDCR agent must ensure the location the parolee moves to is compliant to the stipulations of the law.
“The officer in charge of [Littleton] made sure he registered in Fallbrook as a sex offender,” said Patino. “We want to make it clear that he went into the office, and the verification is the very fact that his address appears on the Megan’s Law website.”
Officers at the De Luz meeting made it very clear that the information placed on the Megan’s Law website was for protection, not for retaliation or preemptive action.
“We have to balance your rights and the individuals’ rights,” said Janenko. “There is a penal code section under Megan’s Law that states if information under Megan’s law is used for other than protection, you will be held liable. Generally, this information cannot be used for housing and employment.”
Patino explained that there are certain residency restrictions as part of Megan’s Law, which are also listed on the website.
“Before an offender moves, he has to tell us, and before he is allowed, we must check the location to make sure it is legally compliant, in so far as that it is so far from certain types of facilities,” said Patino. “We made sure [Littleton] complied with requirements required, and followed all necessary steps legally prescribed.”
Law officials also stated that Littleton had not been involved in child molestation, though information from Megan’s Law penal code was not clear.
“The penal section 208c [listed for Littleton] has an extra section that states he committed forced oral copulation of an adult by force or fear. It was one of those obscure sections that can be confusing,” said Janenko. “Littleton does not have any minor victims.”
All sexual registrants must wear GPS monitoring bracelets that have safeguards to inform officials if they are tampered with, stated Janenko. Parolees must wear the bracelets for the entirety of their parole, which is generally about five years.
“Parole uses a system that constantly monitors the registrants, and registrants agree to participate in all that the program requires and to attend courses,” he said. “They must also undergo polygraph tests and have at least two unannounced site visits a month. A lot has been invested into this system, and we know where parolees are every day, where they are going, and what they are doing.”
In addition, parolees are susceptible to having their home and property searched without a warrant, something that Littleton recently underwent.
De Luz residents were unhappy at the fact that no parole department representative was present at the meeting.
Michael Hadland, a representative from Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, apologized on behalf of the state parole system.
“It is unacceptable that they did not have someone here, especially when there are so many questions.”
However, Patino stated no representative from the CDCR had promised to attend the meeting, as Littleton had been in accordance with parole regulations.
“We understand why residents wouldn’t want to have a sex offender living in their neighborhood,” said Patino. “However [Littleton] is legally compliant, and because of that, believed we had no questions to answer.”
Residents questioned the Sheriff’s Dept. as to what they could to in order to protect themselves if they felt threatened by anyone.
“Do what you need to do, but if you take affirmative action, you will be looked at by the court, the public. and everyone,” said Lt. Wager. “Do what’s reasonable. If someone trespasses, that is a misdemeanor. The person can be placed under citizen’s arrest, or call us and we will place the person under citizen’s arrest.”
In regards to whether Littleton or other local area offenders will assault a resident, Janenko stated that “no one has a crystal ball” to see if they will re-offend. On a scale used by law enforcement to see how likely a sexual offender will re-offend, Littleton rated a three out of 10. Most released individuals rate anywhere from one to five.
“[Littleton] is 20-plus years older,” he said. “Offenders that do not re-offend have a good support system and a stable life to go back into.”
Each offender’s information is shared on a “case-by-case basis,” and provisions are made on a local level to notify residents.
“We try to identify when it is a good idea, and we are now evaluating that process,” said Wager. “Ultimately, I was responsible for this information. When I was first asked about [Littleton], I incorrectly assumed he had just been released from state prison. We are notified and receive photos when parolees first move around after prison, but we should have looked at continued notifications.”
While it is not ideal to have sexual offenders living in communities, Wager stated that it is best to have them registered to an address rather than be transient.
“When they are registered as transient, we have no idea where they are,” said Wager. “That’s the negative side of residency restrictions.”
Caylin Guerin, a representative from County Supervisor Bill Horn’s office, stated that residents can sign up for a sex offender email newsletter, which informs residents of any changes to the database throughout the county. (Sign up at www.sandiegocountysexoffenders.com).
Lt. Wager stated that the best way to get a Sheriff’s deputy’s support is to communicate with the department when suspicious activities occur.
“We are here to serve you,” he said. “When you are not happy, we begin to look at policies, like we are now. I want to respond to you. If you notice something suspicious, call us. We don’t know what cars or people don’t belong in your neighborhood. You are our eyes and ears, and if you call us, you give us a reason to stop, detain, and search suspicious individuals.”