JEFFERSON CITY - The number of missing sex offenders in Missouri went down significantly since last year, according to Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway.
The state of Missouri requires sex offenders to check-in and verify their address with local law enforcement. They are given seven days to register upon moving to a new location. When an offender does not register they are considered "missing."
In October 2018, Galloway's office uncovered 1,259 offenders who did not follow registration laws.
“Our audit last year found the information available in the public sex offender registry was not accurate. That's an issue of public safety," she said.
Over the course of nine months, Galloway said the numbers changed significantly. It dropped by 21 percent, leaving about 1,000 sex offenders unaccounted for.
"Following the audit, law enforcement has worked to better locate and hold accountable sex offenders not following the law, as well as take steps to make sure information in the database is current," Galloway said in a statement.
The Missouri Sheriffs Association disagreed with Galloway's findings.
"The numbers in the new release are encouraging, but one thing I want to make sure that everyone knows that sheriffs are committed to doing their job in keeping everyone safe," Executive Director Kevin Merritt said. "They aren’t necessarily concerned with if the auditor is happy,” he said.
In 2018, Merritt disputed the findings of the audit, and criticized Galloway's office for not working with local law enforcement. Merritt said the numbers are skewed due to some offenders being in prison or deceased, but praised Galloway for updating the public.
“It’s encouraging to see she’s acknowledging progress has been made," he said.
Galloway said the auditor's office and Missouri Highway Patrol are still working to improve the registry program and said they still have a long way to go.