Attorney General Launches ‘Operation Safe Shelter’ For Evacuees

September 14, 2008

With literally tens of thousands of Hurricane Ike evacuees seeking safety in emergency shelters, Attorney General Greg Abbott has launched a new emergency service to provide registered sex offender information to evacuation shelter personnel.

Called “Operation Safe Shelter,” the program provides a 24-hour, toll-free emergency hotline that allows shelter personnel to inquire whether sheltered evacuees are registered sex offenders.

When evacuation shelters call the Safe Shelter Hotline at 866-385-0333, law enforcement personnel with the Attorney General’s Office will provide information from the state’s registered sex offender database. That information will help shelter personnel be aware of any evacuees that are included in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s sex offender registry.

“During disasters and times of crisis, emergency shelters provide a safe refuge for fleeing evacuees,” Abbott said in announcing the program. “The Safe Shelter Hotline will help ensure that emergency volunteers and staff are properly informed when registered sex offenders are present in their shelters. We are grateful to Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the staff at the state operations center for their assistance.”

The hotline is currently operational on a 24-hour basis and will continue until emergency conditions cease.

In addition to the toll-free telephone number, emergency shelters have been provided with an e-mail address and fax line they can use to submit evacuee information to the Attorney General’s Office. To ensure thorough database searches, callers need to provide evacuees’ names, addresses and dates of birth.

If a shelter manager identifies a registered sex offender, they have the option of making specialized or alternate housing arrangements for that person.

Abbott added that his office had also extended hours for the Consumer Complaint Hotline. Anyone with concerns about price gouging or other predatory practices targeting hurricane victims or evacuees can call 800-252-8011.

Price gouging issues can include such things as lodging, groceries, clothing, medical supplies, repair work and fuel during and immediately following the storm.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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