Tuesday, November 22, 2016

NYS: Sex Offender Registry loophole uncovered - UPDATED

A recent investigative report by the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper uncovered a loophole in the New York State Sex Offender Registration process. It's a glitch that could impact 'offenders' as well as communities. The Journal News story focused on a New York City case, but the implications are statewide. In brief, a man, as required, notified the NYPD that he was leaving the country, but police there never immediately alerted the workers in Albany that maintain the Registry. The NYPD wasn't as fault, since they were not legally required to pass the information along. According to the Journal News story, the NYPD and other local enforcement agencies across the state, which are responsible for collecting change of address forms from sex offenders, aren't legally obligated to submit those forms to the registry. They used to be, however. The forms cover changes of address, employment, education, motor vehicle information and internet providers.
Experts now wonder about the accuracy and reliability of the registry that is supposed to keep tabs on the state's 39,000 registered sex offenders. Registry officials, says the Journal, maintain that law enforcement agencies are submitting the forms and they have tens of thousands to prove it. They also admit that they don't know how many change of address forms aren't being forwarded. It goes to the integrity of the Registry and how reliable it is. Scores of people use smart phone apps to track offenders. 
RNN reached out to some police agencies in Allegany County for comment and to review local procedures. We were told that, of those we contacted, each agency immediately forwards that information to Albany, despite the current legislative language. In practice, according to the Journal story, the vast majority of offenders visit local police departments and fill out change of address forms, rather than register with the division directly, DCJS officials said.
Allegany County Sheriff's Office:
Sheriff Rick Whitney supplied us with this response: The Allegany County Sheriff’s Office does submit all address changes to the state registry. The Sheriff’s Office is required to monitor all sex offenders who do not reside in a jurisdiction of an active local police agency. Last year we monitored as many as 119 offenders, and we strive for at least one annual physical visit to every offenders residence to insure that the offender actually resides at the residence on record. Last year we made numerous community notifications through the Sheriff’s Office/ sex offender tabs on the county website at . Also 59 written notifications were sent to schools, daycares, pre-schools and/or local adult health care facilities.
Alfred Police:
Police Chief Paul Griffith said: We only have a few in our jurisdiction,  but they only have to report to the agency that they are moving in and  living in the jurisdiction.  They do not have to report if they move. Most do report it but it is sometimes a problem keeping track of them when your don't.
Wellsville Police:
Chief Tim O'Grady said:  Wellsville Police does forward all registry forms, including address changes, to DCJS. We only manage the offenders within the village. The Sheriff's Office handles the offenders living in the town. In my opinion if there are agencies not sharing offender info with the State Registry it defeats the intention of having a registry.
Cuba Police Department
Chief Dustin Burch said: We do report all activity to the state as it pertains to sex offenders. We have one officer who has attended several trainings on this topic and he visits our sex offender population frequently to check up on them. They are all very good with us and we treat them the same. We don't have many issues and all of our sex offender population is good about reporting to us also.
According to the Poughkeepsie Journal-
The Journal News investigation has already prompted Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, D-New City, to draft legislation to close the loophole, saying the registry must be updated regularly to be "used as an effective public safety tool."
In 2002, legislators made sweeping changes to the state Sex Offender Registration Act to bring it into compliance with federal statutes. At the same time, they eliminated the requirement that change-of-address forms be submitted by law enforcement agencies within three calendar days of being received.