16 Aug 2012

The Double Life of Sex Offenders

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The endless stream of stories in the news regarding the brazen theft of personal information has been reason for us all to stop and think if our own information is safe. We fear someone will take our information and soil our reputation or destroy us financially. Despite what we hear almost every day there is a less savory and more sinister use for the information than we were aware.

A recent survey has determined that almost 17% or 92,000 registered sex offenders in the United Sates are using the same techniques originally used by those for financial gain to create alternate identities and hide their past. These techniques allow registered sex offenders to avoid all the restrictions placed on them by the judicial system including living near schools and playgrounds or even working in positions that interact directly with children.

This new manipulation of identity creates two types of issues for law enforcement to deal with. The first and more traditional of the methods used is where the offender just simply fails to update records as required and fall through the cracks of an overwhelmed system. The second and increasingly prevalent method is where the offender intentionally alters information about themselves to evade tracking.

Equally if not more concerning about the issue is that a large number of local law enforcement agencies responsible for keeping tabs of register offenders were unaware or did not believe there was a problem. These included agencies in states such as Delaware, Nevada, Louisiana, and Tennessee which had results in the survey showing 25% of registered sex offenders where manipulating data about themselves. In fact nearly 40% of agencies asked responded they had no knowledge of this issue in their jurisdiction.

As one would expect the states singled out and the agencies associated with the tracking of registered sex offenders dispute the result of the survey. They blame legitimate reasons or simple typos for the large numbers but the survey creators took all this into account when publishing the results and the issues are much deeper.

In most cases the manipulation of the data is simple, such as changing the numerical portion of one’s street address but there are other types as well including multiple social security numbers and birth dates, even completely taking over another’s identity.

The reason sex offenders get away with such activities is a less than perfect system. Rules and regulations vary by state and the system and its employees are often overwhelmed with the number of cases they are assigned to track.

As criminals and sex offenders are constantly looking for ways to beat the system it is imperative law enforcement and we as citizens and parents demand a better process be put in place to keep our children safe.

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