JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (Missourinet) – About 19,000 sex offenders are registered in Missouri. Roughly 1,200 are not meeting state regulations, including failing to check in with law enforcement on a quarterly basis.
Greene County in southwest Missouri has nearly 800 registered sex offenders. About 19 are non-compliant.
Deputy Rashid Brown with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in western Missouri says his county leads the state in the number of registered sex offenders with 2,200 – 439 are unaccounted for.
“They could have left. They could be deceased. They could be incarcerated but we have no idea of knowing where those 439 are,” he says. “There are obviously sex offenders who have committed crimes against children, but a large percentage of the sex offenders that we have here are due to sexual misconduct, sexual abuse or deviant sex crimes.”
Brown says some offenders complain about the process.
“You have to wait in line, you have to set an appointment and all that good stuff,” he says. “It’s not like something you can just show up to. So, they have to plan ahead. Some of them refuse to do that and just think that they can still operate like free will individuals. Although they can, they have parameters that they have to follow.”
Under a new law that began in August, Missouri’s sex offender registry shows the public three levels of sex offenders, instead of one, depending on the severity of the crime committed. The law also allows first-level offenders to request a court to get off the list after ten years and second-level offenders could petition to be removed after 25 years. Level three offenders will remain on the registry.
Level three offenders must check in quarterly. Level two offenders will be required to update their information every six months. Tier one offenders will have to visit law enforcement annually.
Missing registered sex offenders who are captured face jail time. Whether the new law will lead to fewer offenders falling off the grid is anyone’s guess.
Brown says his office searches throughout the year in an attempt to find non-compliant sex offenders.
“Even outside of Halloween, we do conduct sweeps, just to check on addresses for those non-compliant offenders. We have a team that gets together to determine what’s the latest information they have on them,” Brown says. “Some of our deputies on roll patrol have come into contact with some offenders who they come to find out were non-compliant.”
Several agencies, including Jackson County, post sex offenders on social media asking for help in finding the criminals.
Other reasons for the number of non-compliant offenders could be due to tight local budgets and many Missouri law enforcement agencies are also dealing with officer shortages.
Boone County in mid-Missouri has about 315 registered sex offenders. About one dozen are non-compliant and a handful are unaccounted for.
Major Tom Reddin says adults and kids must be vigilant. He says the sex offender registry is one tool.
“The fact that they (sex offenders) may be required to register doesn’t stop them from going out and committing an offense,” Reddin says. “The vast majority, 90-plus percent of the people on our offender registry, are people who have perpetrated upon kids or adults who knew and trusted them. Although the stranger assaults, attacks, and abductions do occur, those pale in comparison to the numbers of people who are perpetrated upon by those they knew and trusted.”
Reddin says Boone County officers attempt to verify the addresses of sex offenders a few times each year and school resource officers also do during the summer months.