The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has contracted with OffenderWatch, an IT firm that has developed a vast network of sex offender registries across 21 states.
Maryland will join a growing nationwide database to track sex offender registries, giving local law enforcement agencies a broader look into the lives and movements of registrants.
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) announced that it will contract with OffenderWatch, an IT firm used by some 3,500 law enforcement agencies across the country, tracking about 70 percent of sex offender registrants. Under the new program, offenders will still register with their respective sherriff’s office, which will then electronically submit this data to the department of public safety.
“What we do is we provide OffenderWatch to every sheriff’s office, police department, department of corrections, probation-parole. They use the software to record the offender under their domain. And then we aggregate it under one Maryland Department of Public Safety account,” explained Mike Cormaci, president and co-founder of OffenderWatch.
As the company adds law enforcement agencies to its network, its influence and tracking abilities expands, often prompting state regulatory bodies to adopt the software at the state level, Cormaci said.
“Implementing OffenderWatch was the best choice because several counties were already using the product, and because it provides a seamless notification system amongst the department and registering agencies supplying the information to protect the citizens of Maryland,” said Kevin Combs, chief information officer for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, in an email.
Twenty-one states now use the platform, allowing them to essentially pool registries into one database, seen and accessed by all of agencies that OffenderWatch contracts with.
Back 23 years ago, when the company developed the database for the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana, Cormaci realized that the ability to effectively track convicted sex offenders as they moved from place to place was inherently lacking if disparate local agencies were not sharing registry data.
“We started to understand that the No. 1 problem is a lack of communication — believe it or not — a lack of communication between local law enforcement,” said Cormaci. “We built, very early on, a local ownership field to the software and yet it’s all part of a network.”
Maryland had its own registry system — Maryland Online Sex Offender Registry (MOSOR), but Combs said it had become outdated and did not include a mechanism for sharing data with law enforcement agencies.
One of the benefits he sees in the move to the new platform is the ability to share and receive data from outside agencies.
“Information in OffenderWatch is updated in real time. It offers a means of electronic communication between supervising authorities such as the Division of Correction, and state and local registering agencies,” said Combs.
Data-sharing across agencies and states has evolved as a signature best practice among a number of government organizations, with law enforcement as no exception.
“If you aren’t connecting law enforcement together, in today’s world of cloud and seamless electronic communication, you’re missing something,” said Cormaci.
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