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albany3_120Local law enforcement agencies are not always taking immediate action when notified that convicted sex offenders have failed to comply with the state’s Sex Offender Registry Act, according to an audit issued today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. As a result, the state’s Registry is not always accurate and up-to-date.

“The sex offender registry is designed to warn residents and local officials of possible threats in their community, but it only works if it is kept current. The failure to monitor even one sex offender could lead to serious consequences,” said DiNapoli. “Although local law enforcement departments may have limited resources and this is often a difficult task, more must be done to improve procedures and keep residents properly informed. Fortunately, many of these agencies have indicated they have taken immediate steps to address the concerns raised in this audit.”

The registry provides information to law enforcement agencies and the public about sex offenders residing in New York’s communities. It contains information such as the offender’s name, age, exact address, employment address, photograph and physical description. Local police departments are expected to take action to ensure compliance with the notification requirements of New York’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) and report enforcement results to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

DiNapoli’s audit reviewed compliance with SORA for more than 3,600 moderate- and high-risk sex offenders between January 1, 2008 and January 22, 2014. Auditors examined 15 local police departments across the state – county sheriff’s offices in Broome, Cayuga, Oneida, Ontario, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Steuben and Warren counties; city police departments in Buffalo, Mount Vernon, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica; and a county police department in Suffolk.

DiNapoli’s auditors found that several of these local departments did not always respond in a timely manner to DCJS notifications to obtain updated photographs, enforce address verification requirements and follow change-of-address policies.

For example, ten departments (Broome, Buffalo, Cayuga, Mount Vernon, Ontario, Rochester, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Steuben and Warren) did not always act on DCJS photograph notifications. Although an offender’s failure to update his or her photograph is a felony, the audit showed the departments took no action on 170 of the 322 photograph notifications examined (53 percent).

Auditors found that the city of Mount Vernon did not investigate why a level 3 offender, the highest risk level under SORA, failed to verify his address for three consecutive years and the city of Rochester did not investigate why a level 2 offender failed to verify his address for two consecutive years.

The audit also found:
  • Four departments did not always transmit new photographs to DCJS or confirm to DCJS that the registry was updated;
  • Address forms were not consistently being completed and processed for admissions and releases at county correctional facilities; and
  • SORA policies and procedures adopted and implemented by the departments varied widely in their scope and comprehensiveness.

DiNapoli recommends that each local law enforcement agency:
  • Promptly utilize all DCJS notifications and resources to account for the sex offender population under their jurisdiction;
  • Notify DCJS of the current status on each case and follow up to ensure the notifications have been received;
  • Ensure that change-of-address forms are completed and processed when an offender is incarcerated and later released from the department’s correctional facility; and
  • Ensure its sex offender policies and procedures are complete, comprehensive and fully implemented.

Generally, the local agencies agreed with the audit findings and recommendations.

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