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In the Rochester area there are nearly 300 Level 3 sex offenders, the highest risk level, but because of limited budgets and resources authorities are able to track only a handful of these.
Michael Margiotta wants that to change. The president and founder of Action Against Child Maltreatment, Margiotta is leading the non-profit agency on a campaign to privatize monitoring of Level 3 sex offenders, who pose a threat to public safety.
"These are the repeat offenders, the ones who have abused little kids, and you would think that being the most dangerous they have ankle bracelets on them," Margiotta says. "But there's actually less than three dozen ankle bracelets, and it's very disjointed. The parole department has a few, and a few other agencies each have a couple."
The project is a bit of a stretch for AACM, which was founded 10 years ago with a goal of helping other organizations that work with young victims of abuse. The agency would identify gaps in funding for places like Bivona Child Advocacy Center and the Society for the Protection and Care of Children in Rochester, helping fill the void so programs would not be cut.
"I was on the board of both those agencies, and they would have programs that would lose grant funding or needed to expand, and I started this organization to (try) to make sure those programs could remain and weren't underfunded," Margiotta says.
After a decade of partnerships with other agencies, AACM was ready to build a bigger network as it expanded its mission, says Mark Sofia, the organization's board chairman.
"This year we wanted to be more proactive, so rather than putting money to support children already being victimized, we thought the energy could be better spent preventing children from becoming victims again," he says.
Sofia says all groups that AACM has worked with have been receptive, and momentum is steadily growing toward a system to track Level 3 sexual predators.
The project is right up the alley for Margiotta. As the founder and CEO of eHealth Technologies Inc., he has experience fostering communication among once disparate agencies.
"I've seen how in the health world, communication between different health agencies is broken and stuck in silos," Margiotta says. "Each health department and agency doesn't know what the other is do-ing because they're on different technologies. Using the experience we've had in electronic health records, we can take that focus and break down silos and communicate across different agencies to track the most dangerous predators."
The effort to privatize monitoring of Level 3 sexual offenders is a large undertaking given the size of AACM, which in fiscal year 2011 reported revenue of slightly less than $20,000. But already the project has won the buy-in of many stakeholder groups.
Margiotta has drawn a number of law enforcement agencies into the effort, including the Rochester Police Department, the U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. Marshals office. Together, they are working on a pitch to get the Monroe County government involved, Margiotta says.
There is help on the state side as well, Margiotta notes. Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, has sponsored legislation that would make it mandatory for Level 3 sexual offenders to wear GPS ankle monitors for life.
Margiotta hopes his non-profit agency can help bring other changes to the area. States including Florida, Wisconsin and Utah have specialty courts established to work with sex offenders, particularly those who have abused children. Margiotta has been talking with some local judges about the possibility of building a boutique court in the area with the same focus.
The sexual offender monitoring effort will get a boost from a well-timed fundraiser. AACM is hosting a Corporate Golf Tournament on Aug. 19 at Oak Hill Country Club, shortly after the PGA Championship.
"Participants will get to play on the same pins that Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods use," Margiotta says.
He hopes to attract 24 foursomes for the tournament, along with a few hundred people at a dinner afterward. Though the money is important, Margiotta says raising awareness of the effort will be key.
"This is our chance to raise awareness, to let the community know how broken the system is," he says. "The average cost to track these Level 3 sexual offenders is $9 to $11 a day, and there are hundreds, so we'll need help to bridge that gap financially."
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