A new report says that around 92,000 registered sex offenders in the United States have taken steps to disguise or alter their identities to avoid close supervision by parole agents.
Utica College’s Center for Identity Management and Information Protection (CIMIP) released the report in July 2012. According to the investigators’ data, as many as 16.6 percent of sex offenders have used the techniques of identity theft to alter their official birth dates, names, Social Security numbers, and other identifying characteristics. The goal: to evade monitoring by law-enforcement agencies and restrictions on movement and residences under state laws.
Some criminal justice authorities are warning that the success of these identity-cloaking attempts will allow known sex criminals to work in jobs in close contact with children or to live near schools and playgrounds. Staca Shehan, director of case analysis at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told reporters, “In the worst-case scenario, by thwarting registration requirements, they could potentially have easier access to children.”
The director of the study, Don Rebovich—a criminal justice professor at Utica College—said, “It’s not that difficult to change your identity, unfortunately. There are simple ways to do that.” He said that changing the spelling of a name or using a different Social Security number is the most common method used by sex offenders to alter their identities.
A federal law, the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, created the national database of registered sex offenders. The Walsh Act divides sex offenders into three groups, called tiers.
- Tier 3 offenders, whose crimes are considered the most serious, must report their locations every three months throughout their lives.
- Tier 2 offenders must report where they live every six months for 25 years.
- Tier 1 offenders must report their locations every year for 15 years of registration.
Failure to register and update information when required is a federal felony offense.
The researchers say that the registered offenders aren’t skipping their parole appointments. They still use their actual identities in meetings with parole officers. However, they rely on their disguised identities to blend in with the community at large for everything else they do.
ID Analytics, a private security company based in San Diego, California, gave technical help to the study. Technicians at the firm used commercial fraud-detection software to prove that some sex criminals had established double lives, with multiple names, addresses, and credit records.