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UPDATE: Missouri auditor finds improvement in sex offender list

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | 5:16 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri is doing a better job at getting sex offenders to register but still has work to do to meet federal requirements, a state audit released Wednesday concluded.

The audit found 7 percent of Missouri sex offenders had not complied with state registration requirements through the end of March. That is down from the 36 percent of sex offenders who were found not complying in a 2002 study. In more than 30 counties this year, the noncompliance rate was less than 1 percent — including St. Louis and St. Charles counties.

Jackson County was among roughly two dozen counties that had a noncompliance rate of at least 10 percent. But its 11.1 percent rate was down from 45 percent in 2006.

Despite the progress, Missouri does not substantially comply with federal sex offender requirements and risks losing federal funds after July 2011. Few states are considered to substantially comply with the federal requirements, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which is responsible for maintaining the state sex offender registry.

To meet those federal requirements, Missouri lawmakers could add some new offenses that force registration and require people on the list to report more frequently if convicted of certain crimes.

Auditor Susan Montee said her review showed law enforcement, lawmakers and state corrections officials had worked together to improve sex offender registration. She praised officials and noted that Missouri sex offender laws have changed regularly since the list was started in 1995.

"Every time you turn around, there's a whole new set of things to do," Montee said.

After the state sex offender registry was created, Missouri lawmakers added new offenses and required people to provide additional information about themselves. As of Wednesday, there were more than 12,000 people included on the Missouri registry.

The Missouri Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that sex offenders could not be forced to register if their only offense occurred before the list was created. That decision was reversed last summer after the state high court concluded a federal sex offender law required everyone to register — no matter when the offense occurred.

That meant 4,400 more people were required to register, Montee said. Through March 31, roughly one-third of those sex offenders had not registered.

The highway patrol said it planned to put into a special category on the sex offender list the people newly required to register but who so far have not.

Capt. Tim McGrail, the director of the patrol's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, said Missouri has nearly completed a community notification system. That system would allow people to sign up to receive e-mails letting them know when a new sex offender registers nearby or when changes are made to the information provided by a specific sex offender. He said that system would be available this fall.

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