According to www.ktts.com, the Missouri Sheriffs Association has accused State Auditor Nicole Galloway of a rush to judgment in her report that raised troubling concerns about oversight of sex offenders. The Auditor’s report was released last week and stated that nearly 1,300 sex offenders were unaccounted for, including hundreds who fall into the category of Tier III offenders, the worst kind. Benton County Jail Administrator, Greg Wenberg, who registers sex offenders, states that there is not currently a problem with local non-compliant sex offenders in Benton County.
“There are 72 offenders spread out in Benton County,” said Wenberg. “And, 56 out of the 72 (about 80%) are Tier III offenders. But, they are accounted for and our office is 100% compliant at this time. The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) issues letters to offenders every 90 days and these people are required to return the letters to the Sheriff’s Office so I can scan them into the system. If a letter is not returned, then a check is made to see if the offender has moved without notice. A courtesy call is made first, and if there is no response, then a warrant is issued for failure to register. Sometimes a letter is not returned because of a mishap, and not failure to register.”
Wenberg said that MSHP maintains a data base on sex offenders who are responsible for following rules and restrictions on the MSHP website. One of the restrictions for offenders is that they cannot live or be within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, or a day care center. MSHP also maintains a map with locations of sex offenders in the state. Wenberg sometimes gets calls from offenders who want to move to the area and he looks at the map to guide them as to the location of schools and day care centers. The map can be accessed online at http://www.mshp.dps.mo.gov.
“There are sometimes complaints from residents when they find out that a sex offender lives in their neighborhood,” said Wenberg. “But I remind the residents that the offender has certain rights like every other citizen.”
Wenberg said that there have been times when an offender just didn’t want to register, and that an offender has been found at a school bus stop. He said that there are deputies that can be sent out if there is a concern about any of the offenders, but he advised that parents and guardians always be aware of their surroundings and keep track of their children, especially at school bus stops.
The Missouri Sheriffs Association (MSA) executive director, Kevin Merritt, was reported by www.ktts.com, as stating that some offenders cited in the state Auditor’s Report as being unaccounted for, were actually in prison, had died, moved out of state, or are under investigation for non-compliance. The Auditor’s office responded by stating that some sheriffs must not have been making updated information to the sex registry. The MSA reported that it had contacted all sheriffs in Missouri who, in turn, stated that they were not contacted by the Auditor or her staff to discuss the issue of registration of sex offenders. www.ktts.com also reported that other counties have information that refutes the Auditor’s false claim that these offenders are simply hiding in Missouri without a trace.