SMART Forges Partnerships to Manage Sex Offenders
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
On July 27, 1981, 6-year-old Adam Walsh entered a Florida department store with his mother. He was abducted by a stranger, and his remains were found two weeks later. The tragedy of the young boy's murder—a brutal crime that was never brought to trial—shocked the nation. His devastated family and supporters channeled their grief and anger in a positive way―to protect other children from sexual exploitation and violent crime―ultimately inspiring the passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.
The Adam Walsh Act created the Office of Justice Programs' Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART), which provides guidance, training and technical assistance to jurisdictions putting into practice the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), part of the Act. SMART has also awarded nearly $124 million to help jurisdictions improve, update and strengthen their registration systems.
Some 38 years after Adam's tragic death, the United States has more than 900,000 registered sex offenders. A consistent and comprehensive registration system enables authorities to more effectively monitor and track them, and provides information that may help in the investigation and prosecution of sex offenses. At this point, 18 states, four territories and 134 Indian tribes have substantially implemented SORNA, and many more have made significant progress.
An important step forward is the Justice Department's recent expansion of direct access to the FBI's National Sex Offender Registry to tribes using the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System and the Department's Tribal Access Program. Direct access enables tribes to input data and access NSOR through their tribe's sex offender registry. NSOR provides information to tribal law enforcement that is necessary to investigate offenses and share information with jurisdictions across the country.
SMART also administers the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, NSOPW.gov, which recently was refreshed to provide expanded search capacity. NSOPW enables users to search all public sex offender registries nationwide with one search, free of charge, and offers a mobile app that allows users to search nearby locations for registered offenders.
SMART recently held its sixth National Symposium on Sex Offender Management and Accountability, which met July 17‒18 in Chicago. Designed to convene federal partners and professionals from U.S. states and territories, Indian country and local jurisdictions, the symposium provided advanced training to front-line employees who manage sex offenders, as well as those working to implement sex offender registries called for in the Act.
"We strongly believe that when jurisdictions enact and follow SORNA's consistent standards, their citizens are better protected from sexual violence," said Katie Sullivan, OJP's Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, who provided video remarks for the symposium. "And the benefits don't end there. The effective management of sex offenders drives better public safety in other jurisdictions."
Symposium attendees heard from experts on legal, law enforcement and forensic topics related to sex offender management and accountability. Speakers included the team that solved the abduction, rape and murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley 30 years after it happened. Her long-term cold case solved through genetic genealogy, a form of DNA analysis that establishes genetic relationships between individuals.
"The 2019 Symposium brought together criminal justice professionals from across the nation to network and learn how to continue to strengthen their systems for protecting and informing their citizens about potential risks," said acting SMART Director Dawn Doran.
The SMART Office is working hard, on many fronts, to improve the nation's management of sex offenders and to protect America's communities. For more information about the SMART Office, go here.