There is nothing like being scrutinized in public to cause public officials to do their jobs better, and Auditor Nicole Galloway’s scrutiny of the Missouri Sex Offender Registry last year proves that point this year.
Galloway examined how well law enforcement agencies, including in Ray County, met state requirements to know where to find convicted sex offenders.
After the audit, some law enforcers criticized Galloway’s work. They offered reasons for failing to track some sex offenders. Part of what they said made sense, including that a few offenders could not be found because they had been readmitted to the prison system.
Despite the criticism, since the audit last year revealed varying degrees of compliance with the law, Galloway on July 22 stated law enforcers have made “significant progress” in the past nine months to ensure sex offenders comply with the state’s registration law. Also, they have updated the database that provides the public with information about offenders.
“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 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.
Galloway’s follow-up report determined the recommendations in the original audit have been either implemented fully, implemented partially or they are in progress.
According to the new report, the number of noncompliant sex offenders has decreased by 21 percent since the original audit report, with more than half of the decrease attributed to reductions in Jackson County and St. Louis City. Those are two of the largest population areas in Missouri.
Data in the report also suggests there has been an increase in efforts to track down offenders, go through the legal process to locate them and accurately update the registry to reflect their status.
The idea of whether Missouri’s lifelong sex offender registry violates the constitution is being argued in federal court, but regardless of how that case turns out, the registry is the law, at least for now, and law enforcers are doing a better job of following that law.