More than 1200 registered sex offenders are unaccounted for in the state of Missouri. That’s according to findings Auditor Nicole Galloway has released on an audit of the state’s sexual offender registered program. During a press conference Monday in St. Louis, Galloway says when convicted sex offenders fail to register, law enforcement agencies need to act, such as issuing arrest warrants.
“Law enforcement can’t track the location of registered sex offenders if sex offender laws are not enforced,” Galloway says. “This also takes away the ability of Missourians to effectively use the sex offender registry when making decisions to protect themselves and their families.”
The audit finds that less than 10% of non-compliant offenders had an active arrest warrant against them. Galloway explains that a non-compliant offender could be arrested during a routine traffic stop if a warrant was issued. Without a warrant, an officer would have no idea the offender was not in compliance with the state’s registry.
The audit shows fourteen counties and St. Louis City where this problem persists. Galloway says nearly 800 of these unaccounted for sex offenders are listed in the state’s Tier III category, which is considered the most dangerous offenders.
The audit also points to the need for the Missouri State Highway Patrol to improve its procedures for maintaining the sex offender database and supporting local law enforcement efforts to enforce registration requirements. She suggests updating the compliance status of offenders in accordance with internal policy and establishing agreements with other state agencies to perform batch data matches to locate missing offenders or determine if sex offenders were actually deceased.
Galloway said the Legislature should revise or strengthen state law, both to allow the State Auditor’s Office to access necessary court records when auditing the registry and require background checks for school volunteers.
Missouri has nearly 19,000 offenders required to register.
By Missourinet contributor Jill Enders
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