Accuracy of Sex Offenders Database Questioned

Accuracy of Sex Offenders Database Questioned

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OREM, Utah (AP) -- A week after its Internet debut, a Web site that tracks convicted sex offenders in Utah has disabled access to listings after questions were raised about the accuracy of addresses provided by the Utah Department of Corrections.

The Web site was created by Orbizon Inc. of Orem

It used point-and-click map technology to plot the residences of registered sex offenders in local communities. Information for plotting map locations is public under federal law and is provided by the Utah Department of Corrections. The information is available at the state's official Web site.

But on Monday, state officials told the company that some sex offender addresses were out of date.

Mark Olsen, account manager for Orbizon, said Web designers were told during the meeting that as many as two-thirds of the addresses in the state database might be inaccurate. As a result, the company decided to disable the site indefinitely until the problem is resolved, he said.

"The response to our site has been wonderful. We've had tens of thousands of hits in the week we were up," Olsen said. "Everyone wants it, but we have to make sure it's accurate information."

Jack Ford, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said no one told the company that two-thirds of the offender addresses were inaccurate.

"There's no question there's some on there who have moved since they last came in and registered ... and we're not sure where they've moved to," Ford said. He estimated the error rate at 10 to 20 percent.

"We're not against them. In fact I think having maps works great," Ford said. "We're looking into having that ourselves."

Olsen said he has since spoken with Ford about the company's take on the accuracy question. "Our agreement is that some of it is inaccurate information, but we're not going to worry about numbers," Olsen said. "We understood it to be a large number and we've turned off the Web site."

A message on the home page of explains to readers why the information is unavailable. Instead of the two-thirds figure posted earlier this week, it now refers simply to "many inaccuracies" in the state's data.

Olsen doesn't believe there are any problems that can't be resolved.

Because of the questions raised about Utah's sex offender database, Orbizon has postponed plans to expand the Web site to include sex offender data from other states.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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