Auditor Nicole Galloway says law enforcement in Missouri has made significant progress in the past nine months to ensure sex offenders comply with the state’s registration law, and to update the database that provides the public with information about offenders. The progress, which comes after an audit of the sex offender registration program last October, is detailed in a follow-up report released today by the Auditor’s Office.
“Our audit last year found the information available in the public sex offender registry was not accurate. That’s an issue of public safety,” Galloway said. “Following the audit, law enforcement has worked to better locate and hold accountable sex offenders not following the law, as well as take steps to make sure information in the database is current. I greatly appreciate the work of state and local law enforcement officials to keep Missourians both safe and informed to make decisions to protect themselves and their families.”
The audit last year found that 1,259 registered sex offenders failed to follow the law requiring them to register, verify their address and other information at regular intervals, and notify law enforcement officials if they move. The report also highlighted a need to improve management of the database and weaknesses in current state laws. The follow-up report released today determined that the recommendations in the original audit were either implemented, partially implemented or in progress.
According to the new report, the number of noncompliant sex offenders has decreased by 21% since the original audit report, with more than half of the decrease attributed to reductions in Jackson County and St. Louis City.
The data in the report also suggests that law enforcement officials have increased follow-up efforts with offenders who have not checked in or verified their information as required by law. There has been an increase in efforts to track down these offenders, go through the legal process to locate them, and accurately update the registry to reflect their status. The number of outstanding arrest warrants for noncompliance also has increased, making it likely that other law enforcement agencies will take noncompliant offenders into custody during traffic stops and other interactions.
The follow-up report found that the Highway Patrol has taken steps to improve its procedures for maintaining the sex offender database, including quickly updating the compliance status of offenders to ensure the public notification website is accurate. The Highway Patrol also has purchased a new sex offender registration system that includes safeguards to better prevent incorrect or inappropriate data from being entered into the database.
Following the audit last October, Auditor Galloway also urged Missouri legislators to strengthen the sex offender registration law by requiring background checks for school volunteers. State Sen. Lincoln Hough, of Springfield, introduced legislation requiring school districts to ensure a criminal background check is conducted for all volunteers who may be periodically left alone with students. That language was included in House Bill 604, which was signed into law.
Screened volunteers include office or library assistants, student mentors or tutors, coaches, and supervisors of activities occurring before or after school. School districts also would be prohibited from allowing unscreened volunteers to be left alone with a student.
The complete follow-up report can be found at app.auditor.mo.gov/Repository/Press/2019056142675.pdf.