Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New York sex offender registry flawed

Flaws of New York sex offender registry revealed


9:21 PM EST, January 15, 2008


State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit Tuesday of the state sex offender registry that, while generally positive, found "significant" flaws with its administration.

According to the findings, one-fourth of the records investigators surveyed had mismatched driver's license information and, in some cases, license details for the wrong people were given out as those of offenders.

Auditors randomly sampled license data for 200 of the state's 23,000 registered sex offenders, and found "a quarter of the records did not match," DiNapoli spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman said. "If you apply this to the entire database, we are concerned that this problem may be significant."

The audit also found the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, legally responsible for maintaining the sex offender registry, in some cases failed to follow up with local law enforcement agencies that were trying to locate offenders."

DCJS is not reaching out to local law enforcement to find out the status of these investigations," Freeman said. "We don't want to see any sex offender missed because of miscommunication between Justice Services and local law enforcement.

"The Division of Criminal Justice Services said it had corrected the errors in the driver's license data and was moving to improve communications with local law enforcement.

"We are working diligently to implement the recommendations," said Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for the agency. "We want to ensure that the state's sex offender registry remains accurate and up to date and continues to be an important resource for the public."

Kava said the agency has begun working closely with local police forces to issue arrest warrants for those who fail to register their addresses with authorities. The DCJS has also begun posting names and photos of missing sex offenders on the agency Web site and appealing to the public for help in finding them.

Advocates for victims of sexual abuse welcomed the audit findings."We commend the comptroller for making child safety and community safety a top priority," said Laura Ahern, director of Parents for Megan's Law. She said complaints from the community regarding inaccuracies in the registry were among the most common her Stony Brook-based group receives.

"The registry is only one tool, but if it's going to be a tool the government is providing it has to be accurate," she said.

Ahern took issue with DiNapoli's recommendation that the state record calls it receives to the hotline offering information on registered offenders for training and quality purposes.

"Somebody who is victimized has a fear that somehow or another that information would get back to the offender," Ahern said. "So they don't call."

New York better get on the ball and fix these issues. I smell a lawsuit!

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