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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Florida Prepares for Rita; Vice Admiral Thad Allen Discusses Relief Efforts; Officials Attempt to Track Sex Offender's who Fled Louisiana During Hurricane Katrina
Aired September 19, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, is the Gulf Coast in the path of another hurricane? With Tropical Storm Rita roaring toward Florida, Governor Jeb Bush orders mandatory evacuations. And the mayor of New Orleans stops residents from returning, telling those already back to get out again. We're on the scene with the latest.
Plus, trying to track down nearly 4,500 registered sex offenders missing in Katrina's aftermath.
And trying to reunite hurricane affected children with their families. How can authorities do it with their hands so full already? It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Good evening. Major show tonight. Dan Rather tomorrow night.
We begin with Sam Champion of WABC-TV, the meteorologist. He's at the WABC newsroom here in New York. And in Key West, Florida, Rob Marciano, the CNN weather and news anchor. In a little while, we'll check with the deputy director at the National Hurricane Center.
But let's go right down to Rob Marciano first. What, Rob, is the situation in Key West?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Larry, as you mentioned at the top of the show, mandatory evacuations are in place not only for Key West but all of the Florida Keys, so people have been filing out of here all day long.
I met with the mayor a couple of hours ago, and he mentioned that about half of the residents here have obeyed those orders. So there's still a fair amount of people here on Key West.
We're watching the storm strengthen. It looks like it wants to take at least a very close pass at Key West, if not a direct hit, later on tomorrow afternoon and tomorrow night. It's possibly a Category 2 storm.
The strongest storm to hit the U.S. was 1935, a Labor Day storm in the Florida Keys. Most recent memories, Hurricane George back in 1998. That was a Category 2 storm. And a statement out of the local weather service office here in Key West compares this storm to this storm. It says this storm will likely be worse.
And there could be, from the storm surge, Larry, some of the bridges that take you over the overseas highway, they could be impassable and there be could be people stranded on the mainland come this time Wednesday night.
KING: Sam Champion, does that mean most of the storms that have hit Florida have been less than a 2?
SAM CHAMPION, WABC METEOROLOGIST: No, it's that particular part of the Keys, Larry. You know, you'll remember Andrew, certainly, was a Category 5. And Florida has had its shares even over last year, crisscrossing through central Florida.
But the Keys have been pretty lucky in recent years, anyway, of the storms that have passed through there. Right now, by the way, this storm is about 310 miles east-southeast of Key West.
And it is expected to be a Category 1 or 2 as it passes right through the Straits of Florida. That's right in between Cuba and Key West as a very strong Category 1, maybe weaker Category 2. And then popping into the duffle and strengthening.
It will be a rough night of rain. We expect maybe up to 15 inches of rain through parts of the lower Keys. And again, that storm surge, that could be six to nine feet above normal high tides. I think I'm right in that their tide time, their high tide is around 11 a.m. in the morning tomorrow morning, and tomorrow is their worst day of the storm effects.
KING: Rob, does this look -- where was Katrina at this point?
MARCIANO: Well, Katrina actually beat up the Keys pretty good. You remember, it took that southerly jog and scooted across the southern tip of Florida and as it was going over the Keys, was strengthening. So it pretty much came across the Keys as a Category 1 and then exploded into a Category 2 when it got out of here. But it did pound this area with sustained 60-mile-an-hour winds for about a six-hour period.
So it came in at a different angle. It had already made landfall. So it's a bit of a different situation.
But what's similar to Katrina is the speed at which this is going to be coming through. This is not going to be the slow mover that Ophelia was. I think like Sam said, we're going to have an issue with storm surge and possibly with wind damage as this thing rakes the Keys tomorrow afternoon.
KING: Is it much too soon, Sam, to forecast where it's going to go after that?
CHAMPION: Well, Larry, I'll tell you, they're doing a pretty good job. You know, the last storm, Ophelia, was a tough one, because it's always tough when they build right on the coastline to see what is going to grab them and steer them. But the hurricane center has a pretty good idea of this storm. And they at least get it right into the central Gulf. By the time we're looking at 2 p.m. on Thursday, it's a Category 3 storm. I mean, that's a pretty impressive storm, and there's a lot of warm water still in the western portions of the Gulf, in the central and western Gulf.
Now the last storm that moved through, Katrina, that moved through the eastern Gulf, the water's a little cooler there in that northeastern corner, but it's still plenty warm right in the center and in the western part of the Gulf, where this storm is expected to steer.
And it's not only warm at the surface, but there's pretty deep pools of warm water. So we do feel like when this thing passes through the straits tomorrow and gets into the Gulf, that it will have everything it needs to strengthen and become a pretty formidable storm.
KING: Why earlier today, Rob were they apparently so worried in Galveston?
MARCIANO: Well, for one thing, Galveston had the granddaddy of them all as far as fatalities are concerned back in 1900, the great hurricane of 1900. And they had reason to worry because of this.
They've since rebuilt the city, raised it and built a strong seawall. But what probably has worried Texas residents and actually, Louisiana residents now, the forecast track of this storm, the extended forecast, has shifted a little bit farther north.
So as opposed to playing into either south Texas or northern Mexico, now the playing field, so to speak, is northern -- the northern half of southeast Texas into much of southern Louisiana. So that track has shifted and everybody who lives in that cone of uncertainty is certainly nervous tonight.
KING: What happens, Sam, if Rita hits New Orleans?
CHAMPION: Well, Larry, it's kind of a worst case scenario. And I will tell you, just as Rob said, that the tracks have been changing on the forecast, shifting a bit to the north and east.
And normally, when you see those trends and all the forecasts beginning to believe them, you kind of look that way. So now it is that north Texas all the way to western Louisiana area that is most likely by the weekend to have some kind of interaction with this storm.
And if it were to curve in that western Louisiana area, or anywhere near New Orleans, we're talking about a very heavy hit of rain and an additional storm surge with this storm. Kind of unknown now how much rain and storm surge depending upon its strength, but it would certainly would be several inches of rain and several feet additional water. So you have to wonder, the levee, you know, fixes, are they strong enough to hold the additional water? Are the pumps that are working right now, could they pump out the rainwater and floodwater there?
It really is a worst case scenario if this storm gets anywhere near Louisiana. And the feeling is, even if it's a direct strike in Texas, north Texas, it's still close enough to have some impact with waves and wind and rain.
KING: What, Rob, is the best case scenario?
MARCIANO: Well, this thing's not going to go away once it gets into the Gulf of Mexico. And as you know, once it does that, it's surrounded by land.
I mean, a best case scenario would be for it to weaken and go away. But we don't think that's going to happen. There's no way, with the waters as toasty as they are out there. There's nothing to knock it down.
So it's going to get into the Gulf of Mexico and it's going to make a second landfall. You know, if you wanted to be selfish as a U.S. resident, you'd say, well, let's hopefully get this thing into Texas.
But the best case scenario is to not bring it anywhere near New Orleans, obviously. That would break the back of those folks. And you know, the folks in Texas or southwest Louisiana may have to bear the brunt to sacrifice themselves a little bit for their neighbors in New Orleans.
KING: Miami and eastern Florida is safe?
CHAMPION: Larry, you want...
KING: Either one. Sam?
CHAMPION: No, I really think Broward and Dade County will probably get several hours of heavy rain tomorrow. I think that they're probably far enough away from the center of the storm, even if it's a Category 1 or a weak Category 2, that they'll have some several hours of sustained winds in Miami and all the way north through Fort Lauderdale, Broward County.
By the time you get into Palm Beach, you're kind of pulling out of the bad effects of this. But it's several hours of heavy rain and strong winds there.
KING: Let me get a break and come back. Ed Rappaport, the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, will join us.
Still to come, Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the United States Coast Guard chief of staff, the principle federal official on the scene in Louisiana. Don't go away.
KING: We thank our affiliate WSVN in Miami for these scenes of south Florida and the winds pummeling it.
We're joined now at the National Hurricane Center by Ed Rappaport. Ed is the deputy director of that center.
Ed, is this -- are we just -- we're not going -- blowing smoke here. This is going to be a hurricane, right?
ED RAPPAPORT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: That's right. It may be a hurricane within the next few hours. While there wasn't much change during the day in intensity, the satellite picture behind me, you can see a blossoming of the white, which is indication of stronger thunderstorms near the center. The next aircraft goes through it in about an hour, the hurricane hunters. And it may well be a hurricane by then.
KING: So there all assumption, it is a hurricane. What's your forecast?
RAPPAPORT: The forecast is for this to continue to strengthen as it moves towards primarily the Florida Keys with some impact on the southern part of the Florida Peninsula. You're already seeing some winds outside here. We expect this to be a Category 1, perhaps Category 2, as it passes over or very near the lower Florida Keys.
And then we've got a further problem down the road. Here's the forecast. The center passing into the central to western Gulf of Mexico in the next two or three days, strengthening, likely to be a major hurricane. That means at least Category 3 by the end of the week, as the center turns more to the north, threatens likely Texas, perhaps as far east as Louisiana.
KING: Was Governor Bush correct in evacuating Key West?
RAPPAPORT: Very much so. There was a mandatory evacuation because of the threat from storm surge, and I can show you that here. This is our forecast for a storm surge, which is red and orange here, five to six to nine feet in some places for the lower Keys. And not quite that high in the middle to upper Keys, but it doesn't take much water to go over the tops of the roads.
And on top of that, we're going to have wave action. So potentially a serious situation for the Keys, particularly the lower Keys.
KING: Obvious question everyone's asking -- we've asked it of Sam Champion and Rob Marciano -- could this be a Katrina?
RAPPAPORT: Well, we are forecasting this to become a major hurricane. So much like Katrina, we're expecting a track that goes into the central Gulf of Mexico with strengthening to major hurricane status. Doesn't mean we're going to have the exact same scenario -- we wouldn't expect that -- as Katrina. But we do think there will be a threat to the northwestern to northcentral Gulf of Mexico at the end of the week, quite likely from another major hurricane.
KING: Wasn't Katrina on the same kind of path?
RAPPAPORT: That's right. Looks like the atmosphere is somewhat stuck in a mode of bringing storms across, near -- across the Florida Keys, the southern Florida Peninsula, into the Gulf and turning to the north.
But it takes just a little bit of the deviation from that. And at this point, we think the risk will be farther to the west than New Orleans, probably for the upper Texas coast, to the southwest Louisiana.
But given that's three or four days down the road, there still is some chance of an impact as far east as south -- east Louisiana, and as far west as south Texas and northeastern Mexico.
KING: As -- and one other thing, Ed. As with all hurricanes, anything can happen, right?
RAPPAPORT: Yes. But it does appear that there's a high likelihood of a landfall later this week, early in the weekend, from a significant hurricane. Texas to Louisiana is the greatest risk area at this point.
KING: Now Rob Marciano -- thank you very much. Ed Rappaport, deputy director, National Hurricane Center. We'll be checking with you, of course, throughout the evening and the days ahead.
Rob Marciano, now what do you do, you stay in Key West? What do you do?
MARCIANO: Yes, we're going to stay in Key West. Ed was talking about the storm surge of six to nine feet. That's possible. You know, there are higher spots on the island here, but I'd say it averages somewhere four, or five, six feet above sea level. So it's likely that most of the streets here will be flooded.
You just got to find yourself a secure structure that will withstand, you know, that sort of flooding. And we found ourselves a hotel that's been through a number of storms. It looks like a pretty hotel to me, looks pretty solid. And we're going to be broadcasting either from the ground and then eventually at higher levels if that water starts to come in.
KING: Once it passes Key West what do you do?
MARCIANO: Well, like we do after every storm, we go out and we assess the damage. We go talk to people, hear survival stories, bring those stories to the viewers. And like we did with Katrina after the first landfall, we're likely going to pack up and head to either Texas or Louisiana for the second landfall.
KING: Now Rob -- Sam Champion, don't you have any desire to go to the hunt? CHAMPION: Larry, you and I have talked about this a lot. What I really love doing is forecasting the storms. And, you know, with all respect to the folks who go down there, you can't forecast from there, because often you're cut off. You're right in the middle of a rain or wind band. You're not getting information.
Those of us who are geeks about watching them, we really love to sit here and watch them. We like to have the satellite information, the radar information.
And, of course, because of what I do at WABC in New York, sometimes we go out and we report after storms. But I'll tell you, I can't get away from sitting here and watching them happen. And that way, we know where they're going and all the subtleties of the storm.
KING: Quickly, Sam, does this look very bad to you?
CHAMPION: Yes, Larry. I've got to say it's the same thing, you know, we talked about the last time we were watching a storm enter the Gulf. The problem with the Gulf is that there are really -- there are pools of warm water, very warm water there, and it's just right for a storm to strengthen there. It's got everything it needs.
It's not a good situation for anywhere, even the Texas coast or the Louisiana coast. And if I'm broadcasting to folks who are watching there, then I'm telling them, anywhere from Louisiana all the way to the tip of Texas, where my parents are, you've got to be watching this storm very carefully and be ready to go when they say go.
KING: Thanks very much, Sam Champion. Be well and stay safe, Rob Marciano. We thank Ed Rappaport. And when we come back, Vice Admiral Thad Allen in charge of things in Louisiana and may have another headache on his hands by the end of the week. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is deep concern about this storm causing more flooding in New Orleans.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: We are suspending all reentry into the city of New Orleans as of this moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us from Baton Rouge is Vice Admiral Thad Allen, U.S. Coast Guard chief of staff. Admiral Allen is the principal federal official overseeing Katrina response and recovery efforts in the field.
First things first, what are your thoughts about oncoming Rita?
VICE ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, we already had a tenuous situation in New Orleans with the infrastructure in the city being so badly damaged, and we know we have weakened levees. This storm is nothing to mess with.
I had a meeting this afternoon with the governor of Louisiana, Governor Blanco and Russ Honore, who is my counterpart in DOD. And we're all actively planning contingencies right now and preparing for if this storm even brushes close to New Orleans.
KING: Could it be overwhelming?
ALLEN: Well, Larry, it depends upon the track of the storm. The closer that eastern part gets to the Louisiana, there are a couple things that could happen.
First of all, there's a storm surge. The wind event that's associated with it and we know the levee systems are already weakened around that area there. So we need to keep a close watch on this and be prepared to evacuate click quickly if we need to do that.
KING: Let's discuss the aftermath of Katrina. There were reports about friction between you and the mayor. Mayor Nagin had ordered reentry -- asked for reentry and then suspended it. Any truth to that?
ALLEN: Larry, there's no friction between the mayor and myself or the mayor and the federal government, because we all want New Orleans restarted. We need a really robust city there on the Mississippi River, and we know America wants that.
I think there are different approaches. We felt at the time he was a little fast, especially in regard to the infrastructure was in place regarding drinking water, a usable 911 system and so forth. Plus, the weakened state of the levees really called for an evacuation plan that could handle whatever population reentered the city.
So we didn't have any big argument with the instate, and we were all kind of driving to that. It was how quickly it was going to happen. And we thought there needed to be a more deliberate approach.
KING: Should -- frankly, should all of this wait till the hurricane season is over?
ALLEN: I'm not sure what you mean by that, Larry.
KING: Well, in other words, before you bring people back into the city, wait until November and you know there can't be hurricanes after that?
ALLEN: I understand. Thanks for the clarification.
I'm not sure I'd attach a timeline, because some of this stuff is going to be very problematic. For instance, the Corps of Engineers is not sure the levees can be rebuilt to the current capacity, probably, until next June.
So you're also going to have an issue with weakened levees, even if there's a heavy rain event not related to at hurricane after the hurricane season is over. That's the reason having an evacuation plan for a violent weather event that brings water into the city is necessary.
We have done projections with the Corps of Engineers about what a three-, or a six- or a nine-inch rainfall would do. And given the current state of the city, especially with pumps that aren't working up to normal, you have a threat and you need to manage that.
KING: Admiral, what's your No. 1 concern right now?
ALLEN: Well, the No. 1 concern right now is always safety of life and safety of property. And we're basically dealing with two issues right now.
No. 1 is completing the de-watering of the city in conjunction with the event that occurred, but also make sure we're ready for Rita if it happens to come our way. And that requires kind of a double focus.
We have just finished an extensive sweep through the city, house by house, looking for survivors and, with dignity, removing remains. That continues to be a focus as the water recedes. We need to ultimately touch every house in the city.
At the same time, when you have the storm looming off the coast there, you have to take precautions not only for the general population. We have a large number of DOD and other workers down there that have been providing aid. We need to prepare to move those folks if we need to.
KING: Is Coast Guard training ample for what you're encountering?
ALLEN: You know, somebody asked me that the other day, Larry. When you start getting into flood insurance and housing for evacuees and individual assistance programs and FEMA, that's a long way from the Coast Guard academy.
But I've got a lot of really good people around me, and I'm getting good advice, and we're trying to tackle the problems, increase the velocity of help that we're bringing to the folks on scene and cutting through red tape. And I think we're making some progress.
KING: How much autonomy has the president given you?
ALLEN: Well, I've talked with the president certainly several times since the event occurred and he says, "You tell me what you need, and we'll get it there." I feel I have the authority and the accountability to do what I need to do.
There are some resource constraints that are just naturally built in, the size of agencies and so forth. I'm not sure a lot of people really realize that the actual permanent party in FEMA is just a little over 2,000 people, and that's spread pretty thin right now.
They rely a lot on folks that are brought in from other parts of the country, like urban search and rescue people and that type of thing. It's a pretty -- pretty large situation and complex personnel effort to try and handle.
KING: Is that a job you'd want, FEMA?
ALLEN: I'm really happy in the Coast Guard, Larry.
KING: How many years are you in?
ALLEN: Thirty-four years.
KING: You could retire and take FEMA.
ALLEN: Like I said, Larry, I really like it in the Coast Guard.
KING: Do -- are you the man -- when you say, "Do this," do they have to do this? Are you "the man"?
ALLEN: Depends on what you're talking about, do that, Larry. There are some things, as the principal federal official working within the U.S. government structure, that I have purview over.
But one of the things we always know when we come into one of these situations, the state and local officials have their legal authorities and responsibilities. And we're quick to point out that, in many cases, it's the federal government's role to support state and local officials.
And, quite frankly, that's mostly what we do. It's our ability to bring to bear on very difficult problems, either from the DOD standpoint or other government agencies, capability and capacity that exceeds local authorities.
KING: Are you doing anything specific right now regards to Rita?
ALLEN: Yes, we've got a lot of contingency planning going on right now. The state is working on it. The city is working on it. As I mentioned earlier, I had a meeting with General Honore, Governor Blanco earlier today.
Governor Blanco held a press conference earlier, setting up an alert on the southern coast of Louisiana. Russ Honore, who has the DOD troops on the ground in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, is looking to how to redeploy his forces and position them best, not only to make sure they're safely taken care of, to be able to respond effectively if something does happen in relation to Rita.
I myself, in regards to the rest of the federal community, want to make sure that our first responders that are down there right now are taken care of. We want to make sure that transportation for evacuees, if requested by the state or local authorities, is online. And all of that's being worked tonight by the staff.
KING: And how is the communication system?
ALLEN: Well, the internal communication system right around New Orleans is spotty right now, because it went down completely after the storm. And we're in the process of putting in a new $15 million, 700 megahertz land mobile radio system for the New Orleans Police Department, also restoring their 911 system.
The duplicity (sic) we've got right now -- or the redundancy that's helping us is the large footprint we have with the National Guard and DOD forces on scene that carry command and control with them. We have the 82nd Airborne and the Marine Corps there in addition to the National Guard, and they're providing very effective command and control.
KING: Thank you, Admiral. Always good seeing you. We'll be calling on you lots. We appreciate your time.
ALLEN: My pleasure, Larry.
KING: Vice Admiral Thad Allen, United States Coast Guard chief of staff. He is now the principal federal official in the area.
When we come back, we'll talk about a unique problem. There are nearly 4,500 registered sex offenders living in the 14 Louisiana parishes hit by Katrina. Question: where are they? What's being done to protect vulnerable evacuees and the communities taking them in from potential predators? It's a logical fear. We'll talk about it right after these words.
LARRY KING, HOST: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is Charles Foti, Jr., the attorney general of Louisiana. And with him is Trooper Julie Lewis, spokesperson for the Louisiana State Police. Here in New York is Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Their Web site is www.missingkids.com. We'll give you the hotline number later.
In Baton Rouge is Brook Schaub, retired police sergeant, St. Paul Police Department, assisting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one of the Team Adam consultants on the ground trying to reunite hurricane effected families, and in San Francisco our friend Marc Klaas, founder of KlaasKids Foundation. Their web address is www.klaaskids.org. He's the founder of Beyond Missing. His daughter, Polly, was abducted from her home and murdered in 1993 by a parolee.
Now you are seeing pictures of children, have all weekend, on the left side of the screen here on CNN. These are children that have -- and we've found many, by the way -- not accounted for and we're trying to reunite them with their families. We're not saying, of course, and please don't fear that these children have necessarily been bothered by predators, but it is a natural subject to talk about since there were 4,500 registered sex offenders living in the 14 Louisiana parishes hit by the hurricane.
General Foti, what can you do about this?
CHARLES C. FOTI, JR., LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well we can work with the National Center and work with the local authorities to help that. But also, we just released today -- we arrested seven people in the last week that -- on the Internet are preying on children 13 to 14-year-old girls on the Internet. So we are working with it, working with the state police, working with probation and parole department so that we can help to find these children.
KING: Now Ernie Allen is a predator affected by this? Let's say you are a predator, OK, and you've now -- you have served your time and now you're living in a home and you don't have a home and you're somewhere. What are you supposed to do? Supposing you're in the Astrodome or you're in Wyoming?
ERNIE ALLEN, PRES., NAT'L CENTER FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN: Well Larry, what the authorities have done, what General Foti has done and law enforcement authorities, is urge these registered offenders to go to their local police department, indicate their presence and re-register.
KING: No matter where they are.
ALLEN: No matter where they are. Now we know many of them haven't done that and we have been concerned about that. The attorney general has spearheaded this effort. We've put pressure on law enforcement and social services across the region because we know there is risk. When these guys are anonymous, they're going to seek out the vulnerable.
KING: And of course some of them must -- some may be dead.
KING: Some may be just looking to survive somewhere, right?
KING: I mean you're not going to say all of them are a threat or else you're going to have mass panic.
ALLEN: No, no, no. No, many of them are not a threat, but we know that in the aftermath of tsunami, we know that in the chaos of the Balkans, many of these kinds of people preyed upon the children, preyed upon the vulnerable.
KING: Trooper Lewis, have many reported?
TROOPER JULIE LEWIS, LA STATE POLICE SPOKESWOMAN: Yes, sir. I don't have current numbers as to how many actually have, but we've seen reports from around the country, including Massachusetts, Knoxville, Tennessee, Texas, and some reporting from Florida that they have or intend to change their residency in accordance with Louisiana law. If they change their residency, they're required to do so, notify us in writing within 10 days.
KING: Brook Schaub are the laws pretty much the same in all states?
BROOK SCHAUB, POLICE SGT. RET., HELPING NCMEC IN BATON ROUGE, LA: I think most states have got some mandatory reporting for preferential sex offenders. And it may vary by state, what the penalty would be and what length of time it would take you to report.
KING: So what you and all of our guests tonight are asking these people is to report no matter where they are, right?
KING: They haven't broken the law just by being upended from their home, but they have to report? Do you fear for children, Brook?
SCHAUB: Yes, I do and frankly, all of us at the center, we're worried about all the kids that we've got missing now. We don't know a lot of these children, we don't know who they're in possession. We know that most of your preferential sex offenders are somehow connected to the child. It's not necessarily the stranger danger. So it could be extended family, it could be neighbors. Until we find out where all these children are and they're accounted for and we get them back, yes, I'm worried.
KING: Marc Klaas, doesn't that number, 4,500 registered in those 14 parishes seem very high to you?
MARC KLAAS, KLAASKIDS FOUNDATION: No, not really.
KLAAS: We're dealing with over a half a million registered sex offenders in the United States. On average, about 25 percent or about I'd say, 20 percent, 100,000 of them do not register on a regular basis. Every state does require sex offenders to check in. Every state does require sex offenders to re-register when they've relocated. Even if sometimes that's up to 10 days. I think what we need to do, though, what we need to do is we need to look at the example right now of Florida that has a contingency plan, a disaster plan, for registered sex offenders.
Either they relocate to a specific location, or they check in with -- into jail and ride out the hurricane in jail. What happens is you create this chaos. When nobody has a plan, nobody knows what's going on, and that ultimately is what makes the children vulnerable. So we're in a position right now and I think there are mechanisms that can be put into place to do this, to be able to ensure that what happened in this situation does not happen in the future, just by controlling the small population.
KING: In other words, Ernie, in Florida, if let's say you're a sexual predator, you've served time in jail, you're out and you live in Key West. You've just evacuated. It's a Florida law that no matter where you go, you must report immediately.
ALLEN: Yes, and there's a specific evacuation plan in Florida. There's a follow-up system so we know where these people go. One of the great challenges, Larry, is that every state's law is different. Congress right now is working on an approach to sex offender registration that creates greater consistency and greater uniformity. Louisiana has good law, but many states, the failure to register is only a misdemeanor. The obligation to notify in this state is only upon the offender. So we've got to really make progress there.
KING: Would a national law be constitutional, a federal law that covers every state?
ALLEN: Well probably what Congress won't do is mandate uniformity in every state, but they can set standards. And they can enhance the penalties for failure to register. Create a federal crime.
KING: Are you -- General Foti, are you worried about these children?
FOTI: Absolutely. We have posted the names of all of the sex offenders that are missing on our Web site on the attorney general state of Louisiana. We have contacted a number of attorney generals across the state where they are located, where they may be located. We are working with IBM to crosscheck the names against everybody that's asked for relief, either from the Red Cross or from FEMA, so we are working very diligently with local authorities, state authorities, and other states to contain these people.
If they do not register, then we will arrest them. If you have one in your shelter and you know about, if you will contact us, we will contact the local police and have them taken into custody and bring them back to the state of Louisiana.
KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with more. We'll also include your phone calls.
Dan Rather tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with our panel. We'll be including your phone calls. We realize this is a delicate situation. Ernie Allen, the president and CEO of the National Center, showing these pictures as we have been all weekend and into today on the left, obviously serving a lot of good. We've found a lot of children. Should parents or families or people who see this be overly fearful of sexual predators?
ALLEN: No, Larry, I don't think they should be overly fearful, but they need to be alert. They need to be aware. And we need to recognize that those who prey upon children seek legitimate access to them. So the last thing these offenders need is total anonymity. So in this sort of disruption, it's really important that law enforcement, that social services agencies be vigilant. Be alert. Pay attention to unattended, unsupervised children and watch them.
KING: Trooper Lewis, have you had many problems with convicted sex offenders once they've returned to society?
LEWIS: Well you know it's always a concern, Larry, sex offenders. But now keep in mind, our sexual offender registry, those convicted crimes range from video voyeurism to prosecution to, of course, the aggravated rapes and those heinous crimes. But it's a year-round concern.
And I work very closely with the Louisiana Amber Alert program so I do know through statistics that an offender may have up to 100 victims before he or she is ever convicted of their first crime. So it's not just the registered sex offenders you have to deal with. You really do have to look at each individual, because they are not marked with a scarlet letter that they're a sexual offender. Every parent must be vigilant in protecting their own children.
KING: Brook Schaub is a retired police sergeant from St. Paul. What kept you interested in assisting the National Center after retiring?
SCHAUB: Well I got to know the people at the National Center, doing Internet crimes against children. And it was just an organization that I never could find fault with. I never found an ego involved there. They were always bending over backwards to help local law enforcement and I heard about the Team Adam program and applied and was fortunate to be accepted. I can't think of any greater thing I'd do in retirement than try and find missing children for the parents.
KING: What's Team Adam?
SCHAUB: Team Adam is a group of about 45 retired law enforcement officers, some are FBI, some are state, some are municipal police officers that have had some special training or experience in their background. We're kind of like a SWAT team on missing and abducted children for Amber Alerts and for missing children. We'll get a call sometimes in the middle of the night asking how quick can you get to Texas. And we respond to -- not to take over a case but to help local law enforcement and provide them with the resources that a smaller agency may not have.
KING: What happens, Ernie, when you call the National Center?
ALLEN: Well you -- if you're calling to report your child missing, we immediately check to make sure that case has been entered into the FBI's national crime computer. And the serious -- the most serious child abduction cases, we dispatch Team Adam to the scene.
KING: Do you assume sexual abduction if the child is missing?
ALLEN: Well we -- it depends on the circumstances of the case. If we really follow the lead of what local law enforcement tells us. But we -- the law -- the FBI has created a system by which we receive instant notification in child abduction cases. So we will send an expert to the scene to help that local police officer, to make sure that they work these cases in parallel tracks. That they rule out all options. And don't just assume that the child ran away. So what we're trying to do is make sure they have the tools, the resources, the technology, whatever they need to get it done.
KING: And the phone number for the hotline is 1-800-THE-LOST, right?
ALLEN: That's right.
KING: Or 1-800-843-5678. Back with more after this.
KING: Joining our panel from Houston is executive assistant chief Michael Thaler of the Houston Police Department. What is the story regarding this topic in Houston? Do you fear with all the exodus that have left Louisiana that there are many predators in your city?
EXEC. ASST. MICHAEL THALER, HOUSTON P.D.: Well Larry let me tell you, we are always concerned about any potential threat to our community. And what we are trying to do is make sure that we have as much information as possible relative to any individuals who might be former sexual offenders and we are working with not only our local authorities, Louisiana State Police, we've been in contact with them. We are trying to do everything we can to garner our list of all the individuals who have come here to make sure that we run the background checks and if we do identify sexual offenders or predators, that we communicate that information back to Louisiana and ensure that they understand the laws here in Texas about the need to register. Otherwise, they'll be in violation of our state law...
KING: Have you...
THALER: ... have residency here.
KING: Have you found any?
THALER: Yes, we've found just a few.
KING: Marc Klaas, would you gather that many, by just the nature of being flooded, went to Houston?
KLAAS: Well sure they did, Larry, certainly many more than the few that have signed in. The problem is though that the worst of the worst are not going to notify anybody. They're going to stay underground as long as they possibly can. But very quickly I'd like to get back to the solution to this thing, the Children Safety Act before Congress right now may be the very mechanism to force the states to have an evacuation plan for sexual predators. They can do that simply the way they did Megan's Law, by offering financial incentives for states that comply and disincentives for states that don't comply. We shouldn't have to deal with this situation again.
KING: And what does the law say if passed?
KLAAS: Well, what I'm saying is that they should put a new amendment in this law and they should force the states to have some kind of an evacuation plan for sexual offenders. Now, they just introduced a hate crimes amendment to the Children's Safety Act so they can certainly do an evacuation plan for predators. This way, the children won't be endangered as they are now. I mean that's the problem. We can sit here and talk about how great everybody is, but there are children in danger...
KING: All right...
KLAAS: ... there are predators that are out there.
KING: General Foti, can you legally go and take -- let's say a hurricane's coming and pick up all the sexual offenders who have been convicted living in Louisiana and evacuate them or be in charge of where they go?
FOTI: I'm not sure he's talking about the state doing it, talking about a plan where you tell them where they have to report to if there's an evacuation.
FOTI: You're thinking about the evacuation where everybody was bused out of the city. In lots of instances, two or three days before the hurricane hit, people were going in all directions of the compass, leaving town. That would become a felony for you not to comply with this plan, so not only would you have the problem of not registering, but then you'd also have the felony for not doing what your evacuation plan you had to do.
KING: Let's take a call. Cherokee Village, Arkansas, hello.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Hi Larry.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Why can't we as a nation put all of these sex offenders, the convicted sex offenders in the same category as terrorists and once they're convicted sex offenders, have surgically implanted microchip to where our government can track these people?
KING: You mean after they've served their time?
KLAAS: Larry, it doesn't work that way. There's no such thing as a microchip that you can implant in anybody that's going to allow anybody to track. You can wand a microchip, but you certainly can't track. There are some emerging technologies that will be able to do that by utilizing combinations of GPS and cell phone technology. Right now, currently, there is nothing that's good enough to do what she wishes.
KING: Chief Thaler, is it difficult, logically to check everyone out who is in Houston?
THALER: Well the biggest problem we have right now, Larry, is get the information from all the other entities that -- who have any contact with the people moving in here. To the extent that we have that information, we are checking those names and the problem is, some of the entities, for fear of legal concerns, are not willing to share those -- that information with us, such as FEMA and the Red Cross. So we're having to basically try to work with them -- as a matter of fact, we're giving the Red Cross the database of Louisiana sex offenders to check against their list and they're going to begin doing that this week and give us any information about anyone they come across. We prefer to have that list, obviously, for our own people to check.
KING: Seems like a big problem, Ernie.
ALLEN: It's a huge problem, and enforcement of the registration requirement is a challenge. And Texas law enforcement has been among the leaders. There's a unit in the Dallas Police Department called SOAP, Sex Offender Apprehension Program that we're urging law enforcement agencies across the country to monitor. You can't just assume that people are going to be compliant. You have to check on them. You have to follow up on them. You have to make sure they're compliant.
KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with more and more calls if you're interested in this topic on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Dan Rather tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: Ernie Allen, we've concentrated on predators, what about children who are missing?
KING: Not being harmed, but missing.
KING: They're somewhere.
ALLEN: ... as...
KING: A lot more of them, I would guess.
ALLEN: Well there certainly are. As a result of the Katrina catastrophe, we have more than 2,000 reports of children who are either missing or have been separated from their families. We're getting calls from moms and dads.
KING: What do you do?
ALLEN: Well what -- we have people like Brook Schaub on the ground, in these states, who are going into the shelters, taking digital photographs. We are circulating images and information. We're searching databases. We have been very grateful for the involvement of media. People are calling us. We've handled 4,000 calls over the weekend, when CNN did its 40 hours of coverage of these children.
KING: And still continuing because of the success.
ALLEN: And it's extraordinary. Average people want to help. We found a 7-year-old from New Orleans who had been separated from her mother. Her mother was in a shelter in Texas, had no idea whether her child was alive or dead. The child had been saved by the grandmother who saw the photo on CNN and called us and they were reunited. It's inspiring.
KING: Chief Thaler, have you found a lot of children in Texas?
THALER: The Internet Web site has hooked up I think 135 families as of last Saturday...
THALER: ... we're having some success here.
KING: How are we doing, General, in Louisiana?
FOTI: We're working on it every day. We have been looking at the databases and we're putting it through. And every day, more and more are coming through, so we have high success so far. We hope that we're able to unite -- reunite every child with their parents (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: Let's take a call from McPherson, Kansas. Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Hello.
KING: Hi. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: My question is why can't the pictures of the sex offenders be put on television so that the public can help hunt for these predators?
ALLEN: It is a good question. And certainly, where there are warrants for the offender, where they're in violation of the law, if they're simply registered offenders, it's probably inappropriate. But there is certainly notification of the community in cases. There's a requirement that every offender register and for those offenders that are in violation, I would think that's a reasonable tool.
KING: Marc Klaas, what do you make of that idea?
KLAAS: Well it's a good idea. I mean they're obviously in violation. If they haven't reported -- if they're alive and they haven't reported in now, they're in violation. There's no state that gives you two weeks in order to report. So yes, I think it's a great idea to put those guys' faces up there so the public can be aware of who they are and use that information to protect their children.
KING: Brook Schaub, you like it?
SCHAUB: Yes, Minnesota's had it for the most serious sex offenders for a long time. Where you can go to the Department of Corrections and get the level three sex offenders and their picture and what neighborhood they're living in. KING: Trooper Lewis, you like it?
LEWIS: We have that already, sir, on the state police Web site, www.lsp.org. The photos are available to the public.
KING: Thank you all very much. Attorney General Charles Foti, Trooper Julie Lewis, Ernie Allen, Brook Schaub, Marc Klaas and Executive Assistant Chief Michael Thaler of Houston for this very important conversation. We appreciate all the work you do.
If you want to contact the National Center, it's 1-800-THE-LOST, 1-800-THE-LOST.
Tomorrow night Dan Rather will be our special guest. Of course, we'll as well be following what will certainly be Hurricane Rita.
We now turn the podium over to Aaron Brown and Anderson Cooper. They do their two hours of yeomenlike work every night throughout this, what else can we call it, catastrophe. And another one may be coming -- Aaron.
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