Utica, NY (02/26/2015) - Sexual offenses – particularly those against children – are among the most reprehensible of crimes.
Two techniques that sex offenders use to escape detection from the law are manipulating their ID and residing at addresses other than those reported to authorities, a nationwide study found.
Donald Rebovich, Ph.D., professor of criminal justice and executive director of the Center for Identity Management and Information Protection (CIMIP) at Utica College, conducted the study, “Hiding in Plain Sight? A Nationwide Study of the Use of Identity Manipulation by Registered Sex Offenders.” Rebovich worked in conjunction with researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and ID Analytics, to study how sex offenders avoid registration/tracking under sex offender reporting/tracking systems. The data, which came from the National Sex Offender Registry maintained through the FBI and included cases from all 50 states, was analyzed to determine how often sex offenders manipulated their ID to escape detection, as well as the methods they used to do so.
Findings indicated that several of the most frequently used methods to avoid tracking included using multiple aliases, using various identifying information such as social security numbers and date of birth, stealing identifying information from family members, manipulating their names, using the address of family members or friends, altering their physical appearance, or moving to another state with less stringent laws.
“While the frequency of ID manipulation by sex offenders was lower than initially expected, it is still a matter of grave concern,” said Rebovich. “Given the sheer volume of registered sex offenders throughout the U.S., it is likely that tens of thousands of sex offenders are flying under the radar by employing simple methods to avoid effective tracking.”
The management and control of known sex offenders has become a national, state and local priority, Rebovich said.
“What is most important to the public is that while the risk of most sexual offense crimes being repeated is relatively low, the stakes are very high,” said James Byrne, Ph.D., professor, School of Criminology and Justice Studies, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and one of the researchers who worked on the study..
One of the recommendations from the study was that rather than use a risk-scoring system that differentiates high-to-low risk for identity manipulation, monitoring agencies should develop a simple continuous notification system. This would work more like a credit monitoring report for all registered sex offenders, thus supplying an alert system of those showing signs of possible identity manipulation. This kind of system could have applications to other offender groups that might use ID manipulation, Rebovich said, including pretrial releases, probationers and parolees.
"This is an extremely important case for verifying someone’s identity – and one of the reasons ID Analytics developed a method for detecting signs of deliberate identity manipulation,” said Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, Chief Analytics and Science Officer of ID Analytics and LifeLock. “We envision the use of an alerting system for law enforcement to know when a registered sex offender is violating the conditions of their agreements. This system would be particularly robust to the improper identity variations and aliases being used, where people try to slip below the radar.”
The project was supported by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, which seeks to provide leadership and services in grant administration and criminal justice policy development to support local, state and tribal justice strategies to achieve safer communities.
Utica College’s CIMIP is a research collaborative dedicated to furthering a national research agenda on identity management, information sharing and data protection. Founded in 2006, its ultimate goal is to impact policy, regulation, and legislation, working toward a more secure homeland.