FOX UNDERCOVER - Sixteen of the 17 so-called secret sex offenders in alleged child predator John Burbine's hometown of Wakefield committed their crimes against children, the town's police chief tells FOX Undercover.
Wakefield Police Chief Richard Smith was shocked to learn that his town's Level 1 sex offenders, who have been deemed by the state to be at such a low risk to reoffend that police are prohibited from releasing their information to the public, have been convicted of serious crimes, including rape of a child with force, rape and abuse of a child, and dissemination of child pornography.
"When I went through these numbers, you could have knocked me over. I couldn't believe it," Smith told FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.
"Should these people be classified as Level 1 sex offenders?" Beaudet asked Smith.
"Absolutely not," Smith replied.
"Do you think the system is broken?" Beaudet asked.
"I do think it's broken. And that's my whole point, Mike. The whole point is it is broken. Let's fix it. I don't ever want to see this happen again, it's just a travesty," he said.
Chief Smith is now haunted by the new crimes allegedly committed by Burbine, one of Wakefield's Level 1 sex offenders. He was classified after three convictions in 1989 for indecent assault and battery on a child.
Now he's accused of sexually abusing 13 infants and children ranging in age from 8 days old, to three-and-a-half. Authorities say Burbine videotaped the alleged assaults.
"Did Burbine slip through the cracks?" Beaudet asked Smith.
"I think he did. But I have to tell you, Mike, honestly when I look at our Level 1s, John Burbine was just in the mix with everybody else. From my perspective there are people in our Level 1s who have more serious crimes than John Burbine had on his. That's what's really troubling," Smith said.
Information about Level 3 sex offenders, deemed by the Sex Offender Registry Board to be a high risk to reoffend, is available on the board's website. And information about Level 2 offenders, deemed to be a moderate risk to reoffend, is available to the public in police stations. But police are prohibited from releasing information about Level 1 offenders.
A 2006 FOX Undercover investigation revealed that nearly half of the state's 2,487 Level 1 offenders in Massachusetts were convicted of crimes against children.
Given the numbers in his town, Smith believes there are now even more level one sex offenders convicted of sex crimes against children than the 1,061 we were told about in 2006.
Gov. Deval Patrick's administration denied FOX Undercover's earlier request for updated information. After Burbine's arrest, FOX Undercover has asked for that information again.
"There's nothing we can do with a Level 1," Smith said.
"Do you watch these guys?" Beaudet asked.
"Of course, yes. We can watch them, we can actually go out to them," Smith said.
But Smith admits that, until now, he and his officers weren't paying much attention to them.
"That policy is changing in the Wakefield police department. We will be sending officers out to be a little bit more proactive on that. But there was never any reason to think that these Level 1 sex offenders were felons, were convicted felons of child sex crimes," he said.
Burbine found his alleged victims through his wife's child care business, Waterfall Education Center, which operated out of Wakefield. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
"Should your department have connected the dots and known his wife was running a child care business?" Beaudet asked.
"We didn't know that until a short time ago," Smith replied.
"Should you have known it?" Beaudet asked.
"I would think we should have known it. In hindsight, connecting the dots is very easy. Going forward with day-to-day operations sometimes it's not quite that easy," Smith said. "I would love to have been able to prevent it. I would have loved to see a red flag. I would have loved to have known. But in many ways, there's so many pieces of the puzzle, so many agencies involved, that bringing it all together sometimes isn't as easy as it may appear."