Michigan Sex Offender Online Registry Adding New Search Feature

A name search function soon will be added to the Michigan State Police Sex Offender Registry, which currently provides users with a search of all sexual offenders living within a specified ZIP code.

The site (www.mipsor.state.mi.us) currently houses information on about 11,000 offenders. The name search function should be operational in September, said Detective Lt. Robert Carr, the registry's project coordinator in the Michigan State Police (MSP) information resource section.

"Most of the feedback has been generally positive from the public, but we've also gotten feedback from offenders saying the way we do business is inappropriate," Carr said. "The public wants more information on the offenders and their offenses, but Michigan law limits the information we can make public. We put out what we can.... That's what we do."

The registry was developed by Tallahassee, Fla.-based Datamaxx Applied Technologies Inc., which designed the site to meet requirements from the state police. The site had to be operational within 90 days, be completely hack-proof and be able to withstand an unknown amount of traffic. The company met all three requirements and then some.

In the first 24 hours of its launch, the site received 250,000 hits, and it averaged 150,000 a day for the first few weeks, said Jonathan Waters, vice president of research and development at Datamaxx.

Also, the registry, which is housed on a mainframe, is protected by what Waters called "a biological barrier."

"We built in a protocol that TCP/IP can't jump over," he said. "Potential hackers physically can't get to the mainframe because the system uses a different communication style."

The system now fields about 3,000 hits a day, with many coming from law enforcement officials who also have the ability to edit files on the database, Carr said.

"One benefit of the system is that the public can go to the list and know that someone isn't living where they are supposed to be, they can notify us in some way, either by e-mail or a phone call to let us know the offender has moved," Carr said.

Under Michigan law, if a sex offender changes his address, he has 10 days to register his new address to local authorities, or he can be charged with a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

The registry only records hits that are "true data deliveries" by automatically eliminating ZIP code queries not found in Michigan. "The request doesn't go to the server unless it's a true Michigan ZIP code," Waters said. "That ability is built into the HTML browser, or we'd get 10 to 15 times the number of hits because of people playing around and entering ZIP codes for different states."

Michigan is one of only 13 states that have searchable sexual predator databases. The others are: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

The Michigan system cost about $50,000 to custom develop, but the MSP had existing Datamaxx products already in place, and the cost of future systems will vary, a company spokesman said.

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