September 5, 2023 | Sex Offender Registry

Why CRAs Lose Time and Money Searching Sex Offender Registries


Sex offender registry background searches serve two equally crucial functions: ensuring the safety of our workplaces and communities and clearing job applicants and volunteers to work among children and other vulnerable groups. 

With so much depending on it, employers and community organizations demand that Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) and background screening companies provide the most accurate, timely, and comprehensive sex offender information available — and rightfully so. 

Unfortunately for CRAs and background screening companies, providing the accurate and complete results end-users expect has relied on an inefficient and costly process involving multiple data sources and several rounds of human verification. 

Why Sex Offender Registry Searches Are Inefficient and Expensive: The Typical Workflow 

There is no true national sex offender registry in the United States. The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW), established in 2005, was a step towards centralization, but sex offender data still resides in individual state, territorial, and tribal registries. NSOPW results periodically link to these individual registries. 

The challenge for CRAs and background screening companies when running an NSOPW search lies in determining which of the many dozens or hundreds of results (which often include aliases) match a particular subject and are, therefore, suitable for county-level follow-ups. It’s easy to demonstrate how unreliable the results can be by simply entering a search for “Jane Doe” and observing that the majority of the results are males. 

Each individual sex offender registry may format or label data differently, and the personally identifiable information (PII) available can vary depending on each jurisdiction's privacy laws. A single subject may turn up in multiple state registries, and so to resolve which records refer to the same individual, a CRA will typically complete the following steps: 

  1. Perform a search using the NSOPW (which supports searching by name and location, but not other PII, such as date of birth or Social Security number). 
  2. Manually follow each NSOPW link to the corresponding state, territorial, or tribal registry. 
  3. Determine from the information available on the individual registry whether the record belongs to the subject in question. Researchers often need to make a “judgment call” at this point due to the scarcity of PII. 
  4. Rerun the search on each relevant registry to find records that the national search may have missed. 
  5. Perform a county-level criminal background screening search based on each record found, including partial or possible records. The more records reliably eliminated before this step, the less work and expense for the CRA.
Many CRAs will supplement or replace the steps above with a national criminal database search. However, national criminal databases represent snapshots in time, and incomplete ones, at that. Background screening companies must verify any hits against the real-time registry data — essentially running (and paying for) the same search twice. 

(Some larger CRAs and background screening companies have also compiled their own sex offender databases by “scraping” local registry data. However, this data is limited to the PII publicly available on the registries.) 

A Solution Is Coming Soon: Automated Sex Offender Search 

The workflow described above represents a considerable investment of time and resources and calls for substantial human inference to interpret results. Background screening companies and CRAs will assign teams of researchers to do nothing all day but pursue PII on possible sex offenders. And with each potential hit, turnaround time grows longer and longer. 

For CRAs looking for a way out of this highly manual, time-intensive process, an automated sex offender search has long been the Holy Grail. But a satisfactory solution has not existed — until now. 

In the coming weeks, InformData will be introducing a state-of-the-art AI-powered technology designed to drastically reduce or eliminate all manual labor associated with processing SOR searches, matching PII on hits for maximum possible accuracy reporting.  

The tool goes live on Sept. 11, so watch this space and your inbox for more information.