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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Virginia State Police (VSP) Sex Offender Help Desk and Barracks Operating Hours and Observed Holidays


As most readers know the Virginia State Police (VSP) who is the monitor and manager of the Virginia Sex Offender Registry and our Registrants has a Sex Offender Registry (SOR) Help Desk (Hotline) to answer Sex Offenders questions. Although per § 9.1-917. the VSP is NOT liable for giving out incorrect, incomplete or outdated information to those who make an inquiry. 

Now if you visit the VSP website, (as of 07/09/15) there is no mention of the SOR Help Desk/Line (804-674-2825) anywhere! No phone number, no hours of operation, nothing! 

Just like the various VSP Barrack location hours of operation or SO registration limitations, there is no information on the VSP website, anywhere! 

Then this week I was advised that the VSP Hotline was not available last Friday July 3rd. Independence Day (July 4th) was Saturday so I presumed that means when a holiday lands on a weekend the corresponding weekday is being used. But this is information that has never been shared with RSO’s previously as there is no VSP list of RSO rules in Virginia. 

So I re-visited the VSP website, looking for a list of their official holidays knowing that they would apply to the Barracks and the Hotline. I found nothing……..including no existence of a search window to assist in my search of the VSP website. 

The VSP website does have:
  1. FAQ’s for citizens who want to know if a Sex Offender is breaking the law
  2. A comment box for citizens to report possible non-compliant Sex Offenders
  3. Sign up for citizens to receive notifications of RSO’s changes in registration
  4. The full Legislative History of the VSP Registry
  5. and all the legal statutes that require registration as a Sex Offender in Virginia
  6. A form for employers to request the criminal history of an employee 
So I contacted the VSP. If their website wasn’t going to have a dedicated page with the Hotline phone number, hours of operation and holidays then I would request that information and post it here for everyone to be able to access.
 

Per the Virginia State Police email response I received: 

The Area Offices (Barracks) generally have standard business operating hours for administrative purposes; however, a Trooper or supervisor could be on the premises at any given time.   

The VSP SOR Help Desk (Hotline) is available 8:15 am through 4:45 am, Monday-Friday excluding state observed holidays 

State observed (VSP) Holidays where the VSP Barracks are closed and the VSP SOR Hotline is not operating are:
  • New Years                                       (January 1st)
  • Lee-Jackson Day                          (Friday Preceding the 3rd  Monday in January)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day    (3rd Monday in January)
  • President’s Day                            (3rd Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day                                (Last Monday in May)
  • Independence Day                       (July 4th)
  • Labor Day                                         (1st Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day                                (2nd Monday in October)
  • Veteran’s Day                                 (November 11th)
  • Thanksgiving                                  (4th Thursday in November)
  • Black Friday                                    (4th Friday in November)
  • Christmas                                         (December 25th) 
If an observed holiday falls on a Saturday then the VSP Barracks and Hotline are closed on Friday.

If an observed holiday falls on a Sunday then the VSP Barracks and Hotline are closed on Monday. 

Out of the 365 days each year, 52 of them are weekend days and 12 are VSP observed holidays 

I also confirmed this: 

Christmas Eve and New Years Eve are NOT observed holidays so the VSP Barracks and Hotline should be operating (if it is a weekday ). 

Any weekdays between Christmas Day and New Years Day (Dec. 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 & 31) are NOT observed holidays so the VSP Barracks and Hotline should be operating. 

To come to realize this:

There are 2 sets of 4 day stretches where Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia are unable to register, re-register or change any information even though Virginia law states information changes must be done within 3 days (not 3 business days): they are
Lee-Jackson Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day - (+a 4 day weekend)     
Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday - (= a 4 day weekend)            

Also in the VSP email response I received was this: 

There are over 350 police and sheriff’s departments statewide that can be utilized by sex offenders to register.  Per the Code of Virginia, all law enforcement agencies must register sex offenders.  A directory of all law enforcement agencies in Virginia can be found at http://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/directories/criminalJustice/ 

But as many, many of you have learned over the years your local police or sheriff’s office has told you that they in fact DO NOT take Sex Offender Re-Registrations, updates in information or photographs. Or some localities that do take the SOR updates do not submit the changes to the VSP in a timely manner and you have faced investigations for possible failures to register. So even though the State claims that every locality takes SOR information, some do not and some do so at a snails-pace so registering directly with the VSP is usually the best option. 

Plus, the local police and sheriff’s offices that do take SOR updates are going to be closed the same days as the VSP is closed they aren’t open 365 days a year. 

I will add a link to this post on the Do’s and Don’ts Page so folks looking for this information can find it easily. 

If anyone runs into an issue at a VSP Barracks or with the VSP Help Desk that differs from the times and holidays posted here please let me know. But if you do contact me be prepared to tell me exactly when, where, what and with whom it occurred otherwise I will not look into the problem. 

Finally the VSP’s response to my inquiry included this:

Each registered sex offender has been provided with the contact information for either their Compliance Officer, Trooper or both and have been encouraged to utilize this contact information when they have questions or wish to make arrangements to register. 

Then why would an RSO even try to register at their local police or sheriff’s office? 

I would like to hear about any issues where you could not get a hold of your C.O. or Trooper within a reasonable period of time (2+ business days) if you had a question or needed to register or update your information in a timely manner. I’m especially curious about when the C.O. is sick or on vacation have you had to go past the 3 day window or past your re-registration due date? When they take time off is someone else filling in for them to assist you or not?

Again, I will want dates, times and the specifics of what happened; otherwise I will not look into the issue. If it was 4 years ago it's too late but anything that happened with in the last 6 months or that happens down the line from today, I'll raise a flag with our lawmakers and the Governors office on it if such attention is needed.

If the availability of those who take the registration information and answer questions for our RSO's conflicts with the deadlines set in current laws, then something needs to change. It would either be the VSP processes, hours and paper system or the Virginia statutes and that’s why hearing from you would play a part in any reforms that are needed.  

No one else is going to point out where there are lapses and gaps that make compliance almost impossible, other than me. Help me, help you!

Mary Devoy