Months after her office released a contentious report contending more than 1,200 registered sex offenders were unaccounted for in the state, Auditor Nicole Galloway is now praising law enforcement officials for making “significant progress” on the issue.
The report, released in October of 2018, blamed law enforcement for not ensuring 1,259 registered sex offenders (about 8 percent of those registered in Missouri) were in compliance with the law in terms of registration, address verification, relocation notification, and other information. Jackson, Stoddard, and Douglas Counties — as well as the city of St. Louis — accounted for the highest percentage of sex offenders deemed to be unaccounted for.
Of those, the audit said about 800 were classified as the most dangerous of sex offenders.
Additionally, the auditor’s report also found the state’s sex offender registration (SOR) database, which is run by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, needed improvements.
“Our audit last year found the information available in the pubic sex offender registry was not accurate. That’s an issue of public safety,” Galloway, the lone Democrat holding an elected statewide office, said in a statement. “Following the audit, law enforcement has worked to better locate and hold accountable sex offenders not following the law, as well as take steps to make sure information in the database is current.”
“I greatly appreciate the work of state and local law enforcement officials to keep Missourians both safe and informed to make decisions to protect themselves and their families,” she said.
The Missouri Sheriff’s Association took umbrage with the auditor’s report last year. Kevin Merritt, the association’s executive director, said the numbers reported were “not true.”
“Some offenders are in prison and accounted for, some have passed away and [are] accounted for, and many others are in the process for criminal prosecution which requires an investigation, evidence to obtain a warrant, and then interaction with the prosecutor and Circuit Court,” Merritt previously told The Missouri Times.
Merritt still contends Galloway’s office didn’t make an effort to sit down with local sheriffs to discuss possible discrepancies with her numbers. For example, Merritt said a person could be considered “unaccounted for” in the auditor’s report if police were still in the process of obtaining an arrest warrant from the prosecutor or conducting an investigation.
“The numbers in the new release are encouraging, but one thing I want to make sure that everyone knows that sheriffs are committed to doing their job in keeping everyone safe. They aren’t necessarily concerned with if the auditor is happy,” Merritt said Monday. “But it’s encouraging to see she’s acknowledging progress has been made.”
“Until the auditor sits down with the sheriffs’ offices and looks into how many sex offenders are being investigated for non-compliance, how many warrant requests are pending at prosecutors’ offices, her numbers aren’t going to reflect what’s really going on,” he added.
Galloway’s office said the number of noncompliant offenders has dropped by 21 percent — with more than half attributed to reductions in St. Louis and Jackson County — since the last report. It said law enforcement officials have elevated follow-up efforts with delinquent offenders as well have increased efforts to track down those who are not complying with the law.
“The number of outstanding arrest warrants for noncompliance has also increased, making it likely that other law enforcement agencies will take noncompliant offenders into custody during traffic stops and other interactions,” the Auditor’s Office said in a news release Monday.
In addition, Galloway’s office the Missouri State Highway Patrol has revamped its SOR database, including by purchasing a new registration system designed to prevent inaccurate information.
The follow-up report released Monday said most of the recommendations were “in progress” or had been “implemented.”
Although she hasn’t formally announced yet, Galloway is widely predicted to launch a gubernatorial bid.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.