Missouri law enforcement agencies have lost track of 1,259 registered sex offenders, according to a report from State Auditor Nicole Galloway. That includes 439 in Jackson County, the highest number in the state.
“If the sex offender registry is inaccurate or incomplete, it provides that false sense of security,” Galloway said Monday at a news conference in Kansas City. “It is imperative that law enforcement follow up and locate these sex offenders. It’s just so important as a safety issue.”
Galloway blamed inadequate enforcement of the registration requirements; offenders are required to register their name, address and other information with a county’s chief local law enforcement official, generally a sheriff.
The audit report also found that fewer than 10 percent of offenders identified as non-compliant had an active arrest warrant, which Galloway said keeps other law enforcement agencies from taking those offenders into custody during things like traffic stops.
The auditor’s office used registry data as of Feb. 14, 2018, but the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office provided updated figures than show 460 offenders are non-compliant.
“Over the past five months, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has been active in monitoring and investigating sex offender registrations and violations, “Sheriff Darryl Forte said in a statement. “I was appalled at the lack of urgency the Sheriff’s Office had taken regarding sex offender registration. … I assure the community that we will continue to aggressively enforce the protection of the vulnerable and the innocent from predators.”
Forte said his office has added staff to the unit that enforces registration and has conducted three residency checks over the past few months. Galloway said the data used in the audit predates Forte’s tenure as sheriff.
“There is a new sheriff that has acknowledged this issue, and I’m glad to see that he’s making it a priority and I’d like to see that across the state,” Galloway said.
On the state level, Galloway wants the Missouri State Highway Patrol to better manage the sex offender registry database, as well as work with other state agencies to find people who have registered as required or or identify sex offenders who’ve died.
Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter for KCUR. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews