Soldiers missing without approval are tagged as AWOL. Missing sex offenders, at least 100,000 of them in the country at any given time, could be labelled AWOR –absent without registering, says St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario. An estimated 600,000 convicted sex offenders and other predators in the U.S.s – 18,665 in Minnesota as of last week – are required to inform authorities every time they change addresses. Roughly one in six is violating or running afoul of state or federal registration requirements. In Minnesota, it’s one in 18. And that’s after a statewide effort last year that tracked down hundreds of offenders who hadn’t provided addresses.
Until recently, authorities’ ability to track these folks has been spotty. Several states leave it up to the offender to register. Some make the violations a misdemeanor. More than half of U.S. police agencies are small outfits with 10 or fewer officers. Conducting such time-consuming manhunts poses a resource and manpower nightmare. In response to those challenges, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children set up a unit devoted to helping cops locate sex offenders who haven’t registered. Composed of data-mining analysts, the sex offender tracking unit serves primarily as a liaison to the U.S. Marshals Service. The civilian unit, which soon will have eight members, offers its assistance to resource-strapped law enforcement agencies, big or small.