The state of Missouri is doing a better job of getting sex offenders registered as they should be according to an audit released Monday by State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office.
A follow-up audit by Galloway's office found the number of non-compliant sex offenders has decreased since a 2018 review of Missouri's sex offender registry.
More than half of the decline attributed to reductions in Jackson County and St. Louis City, according to a news release from the auditor's office.
Last year's Galloway's office found 1,259 registered sex offenders had failed to follow the law requiring them to register, verify their address and other information at regular intervals, and notify law enforcement officials if they move.
In her follow-up audit, Galloway said, her office found the number of non-compliant sex offenders had dropped 21 percent since last year's audit to a total of 1,000.
The Missouri Highway Patrol keeps a sex offender registry and reports there are around 19,100 registered sex offenders in the state. The follow-up audit used information from the registry as of Feb. 27.
In Mid-Missouri, Osage County had five non-compliant offenders, Miller County had four, Cole and Moniteau counties each had two non-compliant offenders, and Callaway and Morgan counties each had one.
While she said there is still a need to improve management of the sex offender database, Galloway said the follow-up audit showed recommendations in her office's original audit were either implemented, partially implemented or in progress.
Additionally, Galloway said the data suggested law enforcement officials have increased follow-up efforts with offenders who have not checked in or verified their information as required by law. Galloway said there has been an increase in efforts to track down these offenders, go through the legal process to locate them and accurately update the registry to reflect their status. The number of outstanding arrest warrants for noncompliance also has increased, making it likely other law enforcement agencies will take non-compliant offenders into custody during traffic stops and other interactions.
Galloway noted the follow-up report found the Highway Patrol has taken steps to improve its procedures for maintaining the sex offender database, including quickly updating compliance status of offenders to ensure the public notification website is accurate. The Highway Patrol also has purchased a new sex offender registration system that includes safeguards to better prevent incorrect or inappropriate data from being entered into the database.
Following the original audit last October, Galloway, a Democrat, also urged Missouri legislators to strengthen the sex offender registration law by requiring background checks for school volunteers. State Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, introduced legislation requiring school districts to ensure a criminal background check is conducted for all volunteers who may be periodically left alone with students. That language was included in House Bill 604, which was signed into law.
Screened volunteers include office or library assistants, student mentors or tutors, coaches, and supervisors of activities occurring before or after school. School districts also would be prohibited from allowing unscreened volunteers to be left alone with a student.