In the year since the Associated Press found widespread flaws in California’s sex offender registry, there have been minor improvements to the Megan’s Law database, but real reform remains elusive, the AP says. The AP report in January 2003 found that more than 33,000 rapists and child molesters had failed to register with police as required. Attorney General Bill Lockyer said it would cost at least $15 million annually to track down the missing.
Dozens of reform bills were proposed, but most died. More money for officers who try to keep track of the state’s 67,357 convicted sex offenders is unlikely, given California’s budget crisis. Improved record-keeping has determined that 3,277 missing sex offenders had died, 1,742 were deported, 1,897 were back behind bars and 5,464 moved out of state.
As of Jan. 30, 2004, 33 percent of the state’s sex offenders had failed to check in with police, compared with 44 percent a year earlier. But that’s still 22,060 missing rapists and child molesters, all of whom are committing the felony of failing to register. Few police departments spend the time and money it would take to put them back in prison.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also is “concerned about the accuracy of the database,” but he has not decided whether to support providing more money to enforce Megan’s Law.
California isn’t unique. Even supporters of Megan’s Law say the system remains fundamentally flawed across the nation, because almost all states rely on convicted sex offenders to check in with law enforcement and few agencies provide the resources to follow up.