(Missourinet)— State Auditor Nicole Galloway says a follow-up audit released today by her office finds the number of noncompliant sex offenders has decreased by roughly 21% since a 2018 review of Missouri’s sex offender registry.
More than half of the decline attributed to reductions in Jackson County and St. Louis City. Last year’s audit uncovered 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.
According to online file information obtained from the Missouri State Highway Patrol sex offender registry, the state has about 19,100 registered sex offenders.
Galloway says today’s report highlights a need to improve management of the sex offender database and weaknesses in current state laws. She says the audit also determined that the recommendations in the original audit were either implemented, partially implemented or in progress.
Additionally, Galloway says the data 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.
According to Galloway, 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.
“This is key. If these individuals interact with law enforcement in other capacities at a traffic stop or otherwise, then other law enforcement agencies will know that they have not been in compliance with our state laws,” Galloway tells Missourinet.
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 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.
“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 says in a press release. “Following the audit, law enforcement has worked to better locate and hold accountable sex offenders not following the law, as well as taking 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.”
Following the audit last October, Galloway, a Democrat, also urged Missouri legislators to strengthen the sex offender registration law by requiring background checks for school volunteers. State Sen.
Lincoln Hough, a Republican from 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.