8 Investigates: Sex offender website improving

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - They are out there.  13,421 registered sex offenders in the state of Arkansas.  And there's one primary source of information to see if one of them lives near you and your children.

The Arkansas Crime Information Center's sex offender registry at acic.org.  "There's a lot more of them than there are of us."

Sherry Flynn heads up the assessment phase of the sex offender registry for the state department of correction.  In layman's terms, her department determines a sex offender's threat level.

Once assessed, it's then up to Paula Stitz's staff at ACIC to get that information out to the public via acic.org.

"We're getting it faster and getting it to law enforcement faster."

But how fast is faster? Five years ago we investigated why it was taking so long to get offenders assessed and on the site. At that point it was taking over 8 months!  The biggest problem was paper.

According to records provided by the department of correction, four years ago the average time it took to assess a sex offender was nearly nine months.

Thanks to getting more efficient by going paperless and getting virtually every police and sheriff's department in the state online, that process now stands at 4.7 months.

"We've cut it almost in half and streamlined the process as much as possible."

Last fall, ACIC formed partnerships with the U.S. Marshals Service and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to track down offenders they can't find. That gives Sherry and Paula's staffs more time to keep the assessments moving and getting the latest information on the web.

To date, Paula estimates those partnerships have resulted in a 15-20% decrease in the number of unknown or delinquent offenders. Leaving the overall sex offenders in Arkansas looking like this.

Of the 13,421 sex offenders on record at ACIC, 6816 are in compliance. 865 are delinquent. 2154 are in jail.

The majority of the rest live out of state, have been deported or are deceased.

Numbers that show how the system has evolved and improved since it's inception in 1997, but that information is only good if it's used by the public. "I think our assessment process is accurate and effective." "Our assessment will never prevent an offender's behavior but it can provide information for people to protect themselves. That's our goal."

Arkansas Sex Offender Registry: http://acic.org/offender-search/index.php

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