Georgia’s sex offender registry a mess, state auditors say
By JIM WALLS
Georgia’s sex offender registries are inaccurate, outdated and incomplete, potentially misleading the public about the threat of offenders living or working in their communities, state auditors say.
An outdated and inflexible computer system is the cause of many of the troubles, State Auditor Russell W. Hinton said in a report released Wednesday. The system “is not easily adapted,” so it doesn’t contain all the information that the state’s 11,000-plus registered offenders must report and does not easily accept data transfers from state prisons and other agencies that often have more up-to-date information, the report says.
Auditors also found:
- The state’s 159 sheriffs, required by Georgia law to maintain their own separate registries, often have information that conflicts with and is more current than the statewide registry kept by the GBI.
- The registry has inadequate controls to check the accuracy of the information once it’s entered.
- Data is not updated in a timely manner, particularly descriptions and photos
- Data entry errors abound, including incorrect street addresses and cities that many people use to search for offenders in their communities.
- The state’s online registry, used for 8 million searches a year, reports where offenders reside but not where they attend school or work, information the law also requires the offenders to report.
Auditors also observed that the state registry is missing “contextual information important to the public’s perception of risk.” What’s missing? It doesn’t inform the public “that most sex crimes are committed by acquaintances of their victims, not unknown registered sex offenders.”
GBI officials agreed with many of the auditors’ findings but cited funding and staffing as major obstacles to improving the registry.
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