It is difficult to say whether better tracking could have prevented the recent killings of two girls in Florida by sex offenders, reports the Associated Press, but such cases show the difficulty authorities face in keeping tabs on convicted sex offenders who are required by law to report their whereabouts. Surveys have shown that about one-fourth of the more than 500,000 sex offenders who are on the streets have moved, failed to report new addresses to police, and eluded detection. “There are so many sex offenders and so little resources law enforcement has to track them down,” said Laura Ahearn of Parents for Megan’s Law, an advocacy group.
All 50 states have passed laws requiring sex offenders to register with law enforcement since the 1996 enactment of the federal Megan’s Law, which calls for warning communities of sex offenders in their midst. Police say limited manpower prevents them from doing much more than making random spot checks to see whether offenders live at their listed addresses. States have increased penalties for those who fail to register and required them to report more often. Last year, states passed more than 80 laws to keep better tabs on sex offenders. States “did a good job of getting these registries up and running in the first place, and they have had to revisit them and see where they can improve them,” said Blake Harrison of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “There’s a lot of pressure from the public to know where (offenders) are.”