By Kevin Gaddie, Team Eglin Public Affairs
/ Published September 10, 2019
The Catch a Serial Offender (CATCH) program gives victims of sexual assault who are making a restricted report an opportunity to anonymously enter suspect information into its database. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Tyrell Hall)
The Department of Defense implemented a new program designed to identify serial sexual assault perpetrators with the help of victims.
The Catch a Serial Offender program gives sexual assault victims who make a restricted report an opportunity to anonymously disclose a suspect’s information to the program’s database.
Participation in the program, implemented in August, is voluntary.
Information such as names, ranks, heights, tattoos and other distinguishing features is kept in the system for 10 years.
An individual who doesn’t choose to change a report to unrestricted, is notified any time within 10 years of any matches.
CATCH data is analyzed by a Military Criminal Investigative Office, Office of Special Investigation and links with civilian law enforcement databases.
“If a match is found in the system’s database, we notify the victim,” said Cindy Ybanez, Eglin’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. “The individual can then choose to change their report from restricted to unrestricted, for an investigation.”
Restricted reporting allows sexual assault victims to confidentially disclose an assault to specified individuals, such as a SARC, chaplain or health care personnel, without triggering an investigation. This avenue gives an individual time and control over the release of their information and allows them to make an informed decision about participating in the criminal process.
Unrestricted reporting is any sexual assault report made through normal channels, like a chain of command, security and Office of Special Investigation. This option prompts an investigation.
Both reporting avenues allow an individual to receive medical treatment, counseling and case assignment to a SARC. A report is never changed from restricted to unrestricted without a victim’s consent, Ybanez said.
Names of victims remain confidential throughout the reporting process. If a victim changes their report to unrestricted, then information including the identity of the victim, is pulled and used for official investigations.
Ybanez said the CATCH program empowers victims and helps them gain closure and justice.
“We want to give individuals choices in how their situations are handled,” she said. “They have the power to change their report, which can lead to justice for them and prevent more sexual assaults.”
The SARC office is located at 605 Inverness Road, Bldg. 605 and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. SARC representatives can be reached at 882-2122. The office is open to anyone with base access needing services, or for anyone to accompany a person needing services. To report a sexual assault, call the hot line at 882-7272 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or (850) 240-3219.