Missouri audit: Sex offender registration rate improves

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Missouri's sex offender registration compliance rate has improved since 2002, according to an audit released Wednesday by Missouri State Auditor Susan Montee.

The audit found that the statewide registration noncompliance fell from 36 percent in 2002 to 7 percent as of March 31.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, of the 128 sex offenders in Cape Girardeau County, 18 have failed to register properly.

"Media attention has really helped create public awareness that sex offenders will be prosecuted if they're not in compliance," said Julia Meiners, Cape Girardeau County assistant prosecuting attorney. "I haven't seen as many cases cross my desk for failure to register as a sex offender."

A Missouri Supreme Court ruling in June 2009 resulted in thousands of previously exempt sex offenders having to reregister. The court ruled again in January that the guidelines didn't apply to those whose convictions were before Aug. 28, 2004.

The ruling has made it difficult to track down the remaining unregistered offenders, according to Montee.

As of March 31, more than 1,400 of those offenders had not registered under the new guidelines. Missouri has 10,549 sex offenders.

Lt. David James of the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department said most of the remaining noncompliant offenders have moved out of the county and police don't know their current address.

Still, the current compliance rate is positive news, James said.

"When they come and register and do what they're supposed to do, we don't have a problem," he said.

The number of offenders not complying with state registration requirements are low in Perry, Bollinger and Scott counties. Of the 33 sex offenders in Bollinger County, the highway patrol said three are not compliant. In Scott County, eight of 91 haven't registered properly, and in Perry County 1 of 28 offenders hasn't done so.

Although the audit reports improvements in registration, Montee said reform in Missouri's sex offender requirements is needed, such as increasing the frequency offenders have to check in with local police to update details such addresses, phone numbers and places of employment. Currently in Missouri, offenders must check in every 90 days.

"The highway patrol just can't increase the frequency of when people have to report," she said. "It would require raising our minimum up; that takes legislative action."

Other suggested improvements Montee included in the audit were that the state be sure current notification procedures are properly performed and that timely treatment is provided to sex offenders who are locked up.

Treatment is a critical process in preventing offenders from committing further sex crimes, Montee said.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

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