Offender unhappy about mapping website

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Ted Sullivan
Sunday, February 20, 2011
— Brenda McIntyre wasn’t happy when she saw her name and picture on a Janesville police website listing felony drunken-driving offenders.

“I just thought it was kind of bizarre and crazy,” she said. “We’re not sex offenders.”

McIntyre is one of 55 Janesville residents on an online map revealing information about people with at least five drunken-driving convictions.

McIntyre, 44, said the Janesville police mapping program, Project Sober Streets, is a violation of her privacy.

She acknowledges that her eight drunken-driving convictions are serious, but she said the map goes too far.

“Do they really have to go to the extreme of putting all of our information on it?” she said. “Why don’t they do one for drug dealers or crackheads?”

Police say Project Sober Streets allows people to track offenders such as McIntyre to protect the public, report problems and deter drunken driving. The map reveals McIntyre’s name, address, photograph, driver’s license and probation statuses.

Police Chief Dave Moore said the map doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy. He said the project publishes information available to anyone on websites such as Wisconsin’s online court records system.

Janesville police arrested 304 people in 2010 for drunken driving. The city averages about 100 drunken-driving crashes a year.

“This is a public safety issue. These are folks that have shown repeatedly that they are unable to follow the law,” Moore said. “Given the public safety measure of this issue, I think the disclosure is appropriate.”

He said police always are looking at ways to fight threats in the community, including drunken driving, drug dealing or other problems.

He said drunken drivers were chosen for the mapping project because the website is a proactive way to fight the problem.

“Absent Project Sober Streets, these people pretty much live in anonymity,” Moore said. “Even at the police department, we were surprised at the sheer number of these people living in our community.”

McIntyre said she is worried about a dangerous man from her past finding her by using the map.

She admits she never raised her concerns with the police department, even though she was notified she would be on the website.

Moore said he would consider removing offenders if they had valid safety risks. He said sex offenders had similar concerns that never came to fruition.

“This was mirrored after the sex-offender registry,” Moore said. “Even with sex offenders, we never experienced any violence from disclosing where they live.”

Moore said he thought he would get several phone calls after notifying offenders they would be on the website. But the calls never came.

Five offenders contacted the department about the website, Moore said. Three were supportive of the program, the fourth was upset and the fifth claimed he no longer lived in Janesville.

One offender wrote the police department a letter, stating he has been through treatment and would like to help keep drunken drivers off the streets.

“I support my community and public safety and am willing to speak and mentor anyone in the community,” the letter states.

Several people in Wisconsin and other states e-mailed the department, complimenting Janesville police on the idea, Moore said. A radio talk-show host in California had Moore on as a guest to talk about the website.

West Allis Police Chief Mike Jungbluth said he liked Janesville’s idea so much that he is doing the same thing at his department. He learned about the program during a meeting of Wisconsin police chiefs.

West Allis police in 2010 arrested 615 people for drunken driving, more than twice as many as Janesville. He said the website would bring awareness to residents and hopefully deter the problem.

“The city of West Allis has a huge issue; it’s a cultural thing,” Jungbluth said. “We have 120 bars within our 11.1 square miles.

“It’s just an ongoing issue that we have within our community,” he said. “We’re definitely doing our best to tell people that it’s not tolerated in our city.”

Posting information about offenders online is not new to Janesville police. The department also publishes the names and addresses of people arrested on criminal charges.

The drunken driving map had 8,000 hits from eight countries in the days after it went public. The site has since dropped to about 270 hits a month.

McIntyre said family and friends immediately told her they saw her on the map after it went online. She said some people posted about it on her Facebook page.

She wonders what else police could put on the Internet.

“What are they going to do next,” McIntyre said, “have a website for people who smoke too many cigarettes a day or drink too much coffee in a day?”

Last updated: 4:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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