Dr Karla Lopez1
1Victoria Police, Melbourne, Australia
The Sex Offender Registration Act 2004 has as its main aims, to keep up to date records of personal details and whereabouts of registered offenders in order to reduce the likelihood of reoffending, facilitate investigation and prosecution of new offences and prevent registered offenders from working with children.
The Sex Offender Registry (SOR) is the unit tasked with acquitting the responsibilities of Victoria Police under this Act. Fifteen years into the scheme, there are thousands of registered sex offenders with a few hundred added to the register every year. The Victoria Police SOR has worked hard to establish an evidence-based risk assessment and management model. However, with existing resources it is not possible to maintain up to date, dynamic risk assessment of every offender living in the community. This challenge, coupled with the introduction of proactive targeting teams tasked with proactive investigation and targeting of RSOs posing the highest risk to the community has led to the development of the SOR priority persons of interest (SPPI) tool.
The SPPI has been designed for the purposes of identifying the highest risk registered sex offenders to be targeted for risk mitigation activity. This prediction is based on evidence-based risk factors as well as factors arising from the data through the use of artificial intelligence.
The SPPI has the ability to identify high risk RSOs by integrating a large amount of data and risk-relevant features. It provides an up to date list of POIs who should be targeted for enhanced management involving a local compliance manager and other supervising agencies or who warrant increased policing disruption/ risk mitigation efforts (e.g. compliance, enforcement). It enhances the speed between insight and action in order to protect the Victorian community.
Dr Karla Lopez has over 20 years’ experience in forensic psychology specialising in work with sex, violent and recidivist offenders. She has been involved in therapeutic, program development and community supervision roles pertaining to a range of offender groups including, youth, females, intellectually disabled and other complex, high risk adult offenders. As well as her eight and a half years within Victoria’s specialist sex offender program, she has provided assessments and expert testimony in matters involving dangerous offenders under the Serious Sex Offender (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009 (now SOA, 2018) and Registered Sex Offenders.
Dr Lopez has worked closely with Victoria Police to develop their offender management framework designed to guide the risk management of sex offenders in the community. She has consulted across a number of Australian jurisdictions on matters of offender risk assessment and management which closely relate to her research interests. Dr Lopez led the research on Victoria Police’s dynamic risk assessment tool which was recently published and has now been implemented by most other Australian law enforcement agencies.