INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Inaccuracies in Indiana’s online sex offender registry
that show offenders living in places that no longer exist or include
outdated information undermine the registry’s purpose and make it difficult
to protect the public from sexual predators, state lawmakers and national
But fixing the registry won’t be easy. No statewide entity is responsible
for overseeing accuracy, and though the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association
provides general guidelines, the state’s 92 counties are responsible for
entering and updating information, The Indianapolis Star reported.
As a result, the registry lists a convicted rapist as living at what is now
a vacant lot and shows offenders at addresses that now house day-care
centers or are years outdated because the offenders are in jail, the
Officials acknowledge the inaccuracies are problematic.
“We don’t want somebody that would have a hostile attitude toward these
kinds of people thinking that there was a sex offender living there and
harassing them,” said Lt. Robert Hanna of the Marion County Sheriff’s
Department, which administers the county’s published list of sex offenders.
Efforts to correct the registry, however, have been stymied by the state
Supreme Court’s decision nearly three years ago to create a group known as
The term was coined after Richard P. Wallace was convicted in 1989, before
the registry existed. The justices ruled unanimously that putting him on the
registry was retroactive punishment and unconstitutional.
Hundreds of other offenders are in similar situations, including in Marion
County, where about 20 percent of those on the registry are considered
Wallace offenders. They no longer have to update their information when they
move, yet their names remain on the registry because they often fail to
petition the courts to be removed.
Carolyn Atwell-Davis, director of legislative affairs at the National Center
for Missing & Exploited Children, said the inaccuracies were troubling.
“The value of the public registry as a child protection tool is that the
information is accurate,” she said.
State lawmakers say an outdated registry is no better at preventing crime
than a weapon that won’t shoot straight.
“You wouldn’t rely on a gun that wasn’t accurate, would you?” said Sen.
Brent Steele, R-Bedford.
Hanna said he plans to ask the registry’s information technology people to
see whether they can fix the mapping inaccuracies but said officials made a
conscious decision to keep the names of Wallace offenders on the public
“If they want their name and face removed from the registry,” Hanna said,
“they can go to court and obtain the necessary order to get that done.”
Not every county has taken the same approach. Allen County removes all of
its Wallace offenders from its portion of the state registry.
“We’re certainly not going to publish an address that’s wrong,” said
Detective Cpl. Mike Smothermon of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, “or
an offense that doesn’t require registration.”
Smothermon said Allen County doesn’t keep Wallace offenders on the registry
in part because it would be “doing the general public a very big disservice
by publishing an address that you’re not verifying.”
In Vanderburgh County, offender registration coordinator Mike Robinson said
he lacks the resources to figure out who qualifies as a Wallace offender,
much less remove their names or addresses.
“It would be a total monopolization of my time,” he said.
State lawmakers plan to meet this summer to discuss ways to make the
registry more consistent from county to county. A bill that passed the House
unanimously this past session was aimed at preventing counties from removing
people from the registry, said Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte.
Dermody said he worried that if Indiana took offenders off the registry, the
state would become a “welcoming ground” for similar offenders from other
The bill failed in a Senate committee.
Steele, the committee’s chairman, said he worries that the registry one day
will be clogged with so many offenders and so much outdated information that
users will become overwhelmed and “quit using it.”
“And then,” Steele said, “we’ve defeated our purpose.”