Sex offender registry (SOR) searches have become a frequently-used element of background screening packages. In 2020, 70% of employers ordered sex offender registry checks on all employees (up from 61% in 2017), according to an industry survey.
However, SOR search and verification practices vary widely among CRAs. The landscape for sex offender data is complex, and many solutions are limited in functionality and sophistication. Additionally, most background screening firms look to automation and outsourcing for traditional criminal record searches, but many firms continue to rely on less comprehensive solutions and manual workflows to process SOR orders.
A successful SOR program requires strategic decision making on three factors:
- Sources – Managing the nuances in the web of federal, state, county, and tribal SOR sites
- Processes – Effectiveness in maximizing efficiency and mitigating downtime
- Resources – Choosing what to manage in-house and what to outsource to a partner
New solutions and technology are available to better manage your sources, processes, and resources. These products and services can help you add efficiency and cost savings into your SOR searches. To evaluate the quality of your SOR searches and verifications, ask yourself these five questions.
1. Are your sex offender registry searches real-time, or are they relying on a database?
Many background screeners rely on sex offender database searches to flag potential matches for additional verification. These databases are either available as a separate search or are included as sources within a larger national criminal file. SOR databases are bulk files of scraped or purchased records and can be a valuable pointer toward jurisdictions where a CRA should order a county-crim.
These databases provide value and can help point background screeners to jurisdictions where additional research is needed. However, an asynchronous search of national, state, and tribal registries has several advantages over a database search. This kind of search:
- Ensures the most up-to-date and accurate information;
- Reduces coverage gaps from registries with more limited data available;
- Allows for the seamless integration of hits into a sex offender registry validation workflow; and
- Creates a clearer opportunity for productization and upselling.
2. Do your sex offender registry searches leverage national, state, and county registries in tandem?
The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) should be the first step in identifying registered sex offenders in the U.S. The NSOPW aggregates more than 200 underlying state, county, and tribal registries, allowing you to perform a single, comprehensive search. An NSOPW should be the starting point for a real-time sex offender registry search, but it should be accompanied by a search of the underlying registry, as well.
State registries generally provide information that does not show up in an NSOPW search result, including:
- Underlying conviction
- Partial or full dates of birth
- Historical addresses
- Registrant status
In some cases, the NSOPW site provides information not available on the state registry site.
3. Are you maximizing the potential of automation within your sex offender registry search workflow?
Robotic processing automation is an industry standard as part of a county criminal search. CRAs can leverage automation for more than half of jurisdictions in the U.S. today. Solutions like Synaptec significantly improve turnaround times and decrease costs associated with searching for and validating criminal records.
Yet many CRAs have maintained a more manual workflow for sex offender registry searches. Researchers may be sent a potential SOR hit from a national criminal search, and then manually search the national and state registries for validation. Some may leverage automation for NSOPW searches but have staff manually search the underlying state and tribal registries.
Forward-looking CRAs should be leveraging automation for both the national and state registry searches, and bring in researchers and QA team members at a later step. Just like with county criminal record retrieval, automation empowers CRAs to provide high quality sex offender searches with speed and accuracy.
4. Does your sex offender registry search process mitigate known problems with state registries?
The myriad of individually managed state, county, territory, and tribe registries have known, well-documented problems:
- They’re unreliable. It’s not uncommon for these registries to experience planned and unplanned downtime.
- They lack important data. According to the federal agency tasked with verifying registry compliance with federal regulations, 24 states do not post “all required offenders and offender information.”
- They’re likely incomplete. Reporting has shown many potentially dangerous individuals slip through the cracks and do not appear on registry websites, even if they legally should.
A high-quality sex offender registry search combined with strong background check practices can mitigate these problems. For example, Appriss Insights technology can delay the final processing of an automated search until all associated registries are online. Additionally, our real-time sex offender searches can be integrated into a county-crim order. Within a single workflow, our service extracts data in real-time from the registries, fully validates any potential matches, and then orders and verifies the underlying criminal record through a traditional county criminal service.
5. Have you looked into outsourcing?
Despite frequently working with third-party court research providers on county criminal searches, most CRAs continue to use internal teams for all or part of the SOR process. In fact, some background screeners have small teams dedicated to SOR searches. Outsourcing SOR to a partner like Appriss can help you:
- Better manage fluctuations in demand;
- Reduce operational complexity; and
- Focus on growing your business.
We’ve all seen customer demand grow for separate, thorough sex offender registry searches. It’s time background screeners take advantage of opportunities to improve the thoroughness and efficiency of the process.