Despite registration that is required annually nationwide, the whereabouts of more than 77,000 convicted sex offenders are unknown in 32 states, according to a survey conducted recently by Parents for Megan’s Law, a nonprofit advocacy group. Moreover, officials in the remaining 18 states and the District of Columbia were unable to calculate how many convicted sex offenders are unaccounted for, the Associated Press reports.
All 50 states in the US have a version of Megan’s Law – the 1996 law named after Megan Kanka, a 7 year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and killed by a known child molester who had moved in across the street – that requires the addresses of convicted sex offenders be verified once a year and made available to the public. However, as this study found, state law enforcement officials are not being given the tools to follow through on these mandates.
“They’re implementing Megan’s Law, then turning their backs on it,” Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, told AP. “They need the technology and the staff to track down their sex offenders.”
Parents for Megan’s Law launched the survey last month after an AP investigation found that California had lost track of 33,296 sex offenders, or 44 percent of the 76,350 who registered with the state at least once. The survey found that Oklahoma and Tennessee had the highest rates of noncompliance – with 50 percent of all known offenders unaccounted for, according to AP.
“It is alarming there are those who slipped through the cracks but the majority are still accounted for,” Maureen Kanka, Megan’s mother who has been a leading advocate on the issue, told AP. “Now we have to stand back and say, ‘How do we make this more effective for those who have slipped through the cracks?”