Sex offenders go missing despite laws, report says

Monday, June 12, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Almost a third of the sex offenders in the Kansas City area ignore registration laws and don't live where they are reported to, according to a newspaper report Sunday.

Many of the missing in three area counties were rapists, child molesters and repeat offenders, The Kansas City Star reported.

The Star said that nationally, nearly 567,000 offenders have appeared on registries this year and that about 25 percent violated registration laws.

"The ones who register and tell you where they are, are the ones you aren't worried about," said Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Chris Ricks. "The predators, the real animals, if they do register they give you a fake address. They don't stay around enough to let you track them."

Lawmakers crafted the first registries in the mid-1990s, after high-profile crimes against children like 12-year-old Polly Klaas in California.

Proponents say the lists help solve some sex crimes and prevent others. Some school officials regularly read them. Neighborhood associations monitor lists and warn residents.

But critics say the broad lists are more apt to spread fear than provide useful and accurate information.

"There's a false sense of security people derive from looking at these Web sites where they supposedly can see who offenders are and where they are," said California's Marc Klaas, an advocate for sex-offender reforms since a convicted rapist kidnapped his daughter, Polly, from a slumber party and killed her in 1993.

The Star's survey was patterned after a recent Kansas audit. Reporters drove from De Soto, Kan., to Grain Valley, from the East Bottoms to Olathe, Kan., over three weeks seeking face-to-face encounters with 5 percent of the approximately 1,900 sex offenders registered in Jackson, Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

The newspaper reported that many of the addresses were bogus and that some offenders had been considered "missing" by officials for years. Parolees had slipped away undetected.

Of the 93 offenders reporters sought, at least 27 did not live where registered. Reporters could not confirm the whereabouts of several others.

Half of the Wyandotte County offenders could not be located or were improperly registered. One-fourth of Jackson County offenders had moved or never lived at their registered address. In Johnson County, 15 percent weren't there.

"It's like hide and seek. They're going to hide," said Wyandotte County Sheriff LeRoy Green Jr. "We need help. Law enforcement can not do it by ourselves."

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