State officials are preparing to launch a new sex offender registration database and website that they say will provide the public with more tools to identify sex offenders in their communities.
Following an audit three years ago that identified a need for more accurate and timely reporting, Department of Public Safety officials began working to install a new system already used in 34 other states, according to DPS Commissioner Keith Flynn.
“The Legislature directed us to get the system cleaned up,” Flynn said. “That’s what we did and it’s a substantial upgrade.”
The new OffenderWatch system coming online soon will eliminate typographical errors by reducing the number of times data is manually entered into the system and it will post updates in real time, Flynn said.
Statewide mapping capabilities are built into the software and a number of new features are included.
For starters, the system will send offenders periodic electronic and telephone requests for address verifications.
Offenders can also use email to update their addresses and living status.
The system will also allow law enforcement agencies in and outside of the state greater access to information about offenders.
Residents will have greater access to information as well, Flynn said. This includes email alerts, for those who register on the new website, about new Internet-posted sex offenders moving into their city or town.
Vermont has 1,197 registered sex offenders, nearly 1,000 of whom meet the criteria to be posted on the website. The criteria include aggravated sexual assault of a child, kidnapping with intent to commit sexual assault, a designation as a sexual predator, and failing to comply with required treatment.
The new website will also provide specific addresses for sex offenders once legislative changes are made, Flynn said.
Presently, state officials release the name of the town or city of a sex offender whose profile is posted on the website, but not the name of the street they live on.
Vermont statute still prohibits public safety officials from releasing that information. But Flynn said lawmakers stated in the past that once the department corrected problems with the website the Legislature would add street addresses to the Internet profiles.
The new $403,500 system has proved successful in other states, he said, and the cost of its purchase and implementation in Vermont was paid for entirely by two federal grants.
The new site can be found at www.communitynotification.com/vermont/.
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