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January 15, 2008

 

DiNapoli: Sex Offender Registration Effective,
But Improvements Needed

The Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) is generally providing effective oversight of the state’s sex offender registration program but needs to improve how it communicates with local enforcement when sex offenders fail to confirm their addresses, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“The purpose of the Sex Offender Registration Act is to inform and protect the public,” DiNapoli said. “DCJS is taking its responsibilities for the program seriously, but there are still areas that need immediate improvement. The goal is perfection; no sex offender should be overlooked.”

Under the Act, any person who is convicted of sex offenses is required to register with DCJS as a sex offender when he or she is released from incarceration. Registered offenders are classified by the court based on the risk of re-offense. There are three levels: Level 1 (low risk), Level 2 (moderate risk) or Level 3 (high risk), and additional designations, such as sexual predator or sexually violent offender, may also be noted by the court. Offenders remain in the Sex Offender Registry (SOR) for 20 years to life, depending on their level of risk. As of July 2006, there were 23,456 registered sex offenders in the State.

The audit, which examined the period of January 2004 through November 2006, found that DCJS had established a good process with the Division of Correctional Services to register offenders released from incarceration and had complied with its responsibilities under the Act. There were some major areas identified for improvement including:

  • Poor Follow Up with Law Enforcement if Offenders Fail to Confirm Address. Each year, DCJS is required to reach out to offenders and confirm their address. Auditors found that DCJS notified local law enforcement officials of offenders who failed to verify their addresses as required, but DCJS did not require the local law enforcement agencies to notify them of the results. Some local agencies did not respond to DCJS even when they had located the offender. Two of the individuals who have failed to respond were Level 3 offenders.
  • Inaccurate Driver’s License Information. Information in the SOR was not always accurate or up-to-date. For instance, auditors found that 54 of 200 randomly selected records contained inaccurate driver’s license information. The license numbers listed actually belonged to another person, not the offenders. Other key information that was missing or inaccurate in the SOR included photographs of offenders, unmatched alias, distinctive markings and addresses.

Auditors made 11 recommendations to improve how data is stored and collected, and expand efforts to increase awareness about the program. DCJS agreed with most of the recommendations and has taken steps to address the majority of them.

Click here for a copy of the audit.

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