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New Vt. sex offender registry inching forward - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New Vt. sex offender registry inching forward

Waterbury, Vermont - January 21, 2011

Vermont is due to get a new, more complete listing of sex offenders in the state. But the project has hit some roadblocks.

Vermont lawmakers had hoped that by now computer users would have access to convicted sex offenders' home addresses. But last year, the system failed a mandated audit that turned up several errors, including some names left out and other names put in that didn't belong.

The Vermont Criminal Information Center has been working on ironing out the kinks and will put out a call for bids in the next few weeks to upgrade the way the system is managed.

"One of the issues with that was our computer system, or database, hadn't grown with the times since it was originally installed," explained Jeff Wallin of the Vermont Criminal Information Center. "So we have secured a federal grant through the Department of Justice that was awarded to us back in December to purchase new software."

"There's no evidence these registries work," said Allen Gilbert of the ACLU of Vermont. "A legislative study committee in 2005, I think it was, determined that the only reason to put the names up was the public wanted to have the names on the internet. From a public safety standpoint, there's just no evidence they work."

The ACLU worries the addresses may inspire vigilante crimes against the offenders, or mistakes like flip-flopping the numbers in an address will mean innocent people's addresses list them as sex offenders.

But law enforcement sources tell WCAX News they're confident the new registry will come with warnings about appropriate use and lawmakers have said in the past Vermonters have a right to know who's living next door to their kids. The system will still have to undergo another check through state auditor Tom Salmon's office before the extra personal information goes online. It is still a work in progress, but in the meantime, the old registry with names, photos, and towns remains online.

Jack Thurston - WCAX News

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