DEXTER, MO (KFVS) - Missouri is one of 17 states where known sex offenders have to be in the registry their entire life, and a report suggests hundreds are moving to escape the harsh law.
Using Missouri Highway Patrol data, a Columbia Missourian investigation found that more than 2,500 offenders have relocated in the last two years to other states and Mexico, a country that does not have a national sex offender registry at all.
Some of the most commonly picked states like Arkansas (205), Illinois (320), and Kansas (512) have less restrictive laws, such as a minimum 10 year registration period for low-risk predators in Illinois.
But Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver, says moving out of state doesn't mean a sexual predator is no longer accountable for their previous actions.
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA, is a federal law that Oliver says forces predators who committed their crime in Missouri to always be listed on the registry no matter where they live.
"The rules of the state that you committed the original offense in stays with you regardless of where you go," Oliver said. "I would be interested in knowing what the other states exodus percentage is for other sex offenders. There is a lot of stigma that is attached to being a sex offender and so I would imagine that a lot of people want to go get a new start somewhere."
Oliver believes in adopting a tiered system where the public can understand each sex offenders "threat level" so they get a better sense of the danger they poses to a society.
"Is this a person who was in a Romeo and Juliet situation where he was 20 years old and she was 16 years old?" Oliver said. "People look at that much differently than a grown man with a toddler. That is a different situation. Those are different offenses."
At the same time Oliver thinks a life time registration is important for high risk predators because their negative personality traits can stick around no matter what neighborhood they live in.
"At the end of the day there are kids in Arkansas, in Kansas and in Illinois that have just as much a right to live in safety and at peace in their community and not have the threat of a sexual predator finding them as the kids in Stoddard County," he said
Oliver says sexual predators have a tight time frame to report their new address to a local law enforcement, typically the county Sheriff's office, and in Missouri that information is found of the highway patrol's sex offender registry website.