Monday, September 15, 2008

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More than 3,300 Evacuees Checked To Date In Operation Safe Shelter

AUSTIN – Since Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott launched Operation Safe Shelter last Thursday, law enforcement personnel manning the hotline have compared 3,300 names to the state’s sex offender database. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is now working with local law enforcement officials to help protect evacuees who remain in shelters. Although Hurricane Ike has passed, thousands of Texans remain in emergency shelters, which continue sending names to the Operation Safe Shelter operations center.

The OAG launched the new emergency service before Hurricane Ike struck the Texas Gulf Coast area. To aid emergency shelters, raise awareness and protect evacuees, the hotline operated 24 hours a day to handle shelter personnel’s inquiries about whether evacuees are registered sex offenders. Now that Hurricane Ike has left Texas, the hotline will now operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., until further notice.

When evacuation shelters contact the Safe Shelter Hotline at (866) 385-0333, law enforcement officials with the OAG will access and share information from the state’s registered sex offender database. That information will help shelter personnel determine whether any of their evacuees are included on the Department of Public Safety’s sex offender registry. To ensure thorough database searches, callers need to provide evacuees’ names, addresses and dates of birth. Shelter managers can use this information as necessary to coordinate specialized housing arrangements or take other action as appropriate.

“Operation Safe Shelter has helped protect hurricane evacuees by ensuring that emergency personnel are properly informed when registered sex offenders are present in shelters,” Attorney General Abbott said. “With tens of thousands of evacuees still seeking refuge in evacuation shelters, I encourage shelter personnel to continue utilizing this resource. 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 and hard work during this emergency situation.”

In addition to the telephone number listed above, emergency shelters will be provided an e-mail address and fax line that they can use to submit evacuee information to the OAG.

The OAG’s Consumer Complaint Hotline also will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., until further notice. Consumers can call the hotline, (800) 252-8011, to report price gouging on necessities, including groceries, clothing, medical supplies, lodging, repair work and fuel during and after such crises.

For more information about Hurricane Ike or scams targeting consumers following emergencies, visit www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/hurricane.