Missouri Lost Track of More Than 1,200 Registered Sex Offenders, State Audit Finds

New York Times: Law enforcement officials in Missouri don’t know the whereabouts of more than 1,200 registered sex offenders — nearly 8 percent of those required to register there — according to a state audit that highlights the difficulties of maintaining such lists.

“Local officials need to do more to hold these predators accountable for not following the law,” State Auditor Nicole Galloway said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that the inaccurate records represented “a public safety issue.”

“Right now it is providing a false sense of security,” said Ms. Galloway, who oversaw the audit. “The public assumes information in the sex offender registry is correct, when in fact it is not.”

The audit, which was released Monday, found that more than 60 percent of the offenders who were unaccounted for were categorized as Tier III, the most serious classification. That includes those convicted of crimes like rape, sodomy and molestation of a child younger than 14. Under Missouri law, Tier III offenders are required to register with a local law enforcement official every 90 days for the rest of their lives.

All convicted sex offenders, regardless of their tier, must register their name and address with law enforcement officials, typically the county sheriff, and verify that information regularly. If they don’t, officials are supposed to follow up, and issue a warrant if the offender cannot be found.

According to the audit, about 91 percent of noncompliant sex offenders did not have warrants outstanding for their arrest.

It was unclear whether some people were missing from the registry entirely, or whether the total number of sex offenders who are unaccounted for was in fact 1,259, the number identified in the audit.

“We believe that this could be a conservative figure because we were unable to get complete information from the courts,” Ms. Galloway said.