KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte said there are more than 400 non-compliant sex offenders in the county, nearly one-fifth of those who are legally required to register.
“It didn't happen overnight,” said Forte, a former Kansas City, Missouri, Police Chief now serving as interim sheriff for the county. “I think it’s been a poorly managed system. When you get to that number of 450, somebody missed something.”
Worse yet, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said it can’t locate hundreds of registered sex offenders.
“It frightens me that we have this many people out there,” Forte said. “You don't know if they are living next door to you, if they are on the playground standing around the playground with your kids or grandkids.”
There are more than 2,000 registered sex offenders in Jackson County, the most of any county in the state, but nearly 20 percent of those offenders are non-compliant, meaning law enforcement can’t locate them.
By comparison, St. Louis County has more than 1,600 offenders. Law enforcement there said only 14 people are non-compliant — less than 1 percent.
Forte plans to make some changes.
"We are adding a detective, should be on board next week,” he said, “We are trying to get an administrative person to handle the paperwork.”
Forte also said he’s getting assistance from outside law enforcement. That includes from people like Victoria Pickering — the coordinator of educational outreach with MOCSA, a victim advocacy group.
“We know that a majority of offenders are serious offenders, so we want to make sure there is true accountability that helps prevent this from happening in the future,” Pickering said.
Pickering said the registry is important, but it’s just one part of ensuring people’s safety. She also hopes current problems with the system won’t discourage victims from coming forward.
“I hope this does not result in future victims not feeling comfortable in coming forward or being detoured from seeking support because they lost faith in the system,” she said.
Forte hopes that by changing an outdated policy and adding staff, the numbers of those out of compliance will drop.
“We are going to do better,” Forte said. “When people come up to me six months from now and say, ‘Forte what are you going to do?’ I will name the things we've done and the numbers have gone down.”