Tribes gain direct access to FBI sex offender registry

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Dozens of tribes now have direct access to the FBI's National Sex Offender Registry as tribal authorities try to combat high rates of sexual violence, federal officials said Thursday.

The Justice Department announced an automated system that links a sex offender registry for tribes with the FBI's database, saying it will make information sharing seamless.

In the past, authorities had to enter the same data into the tribal sex offender registry and another federal registry if they wanted a sex offender's information to appear in both systems, said Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman.

That process could result in backlogs that kept sex offender information from quickly being shared nationwide.

More than half of Native American women have encountered sexual and domestic violence at some point during their lives, according to the most recently available federal figures. Numerous measures have been introduced at the state and federal level this year to try to address the violence.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the access to the FBI database will give tribal law enforcement officials the information they need to better prevent sex crimes.

More than 50 tribes already part of what's known as the Tribal Access Program, or TAP, will benefit from the system upgrade.

That program began in 2015 amid concerns that tribes could not enter information into federal databases to increase the chance of preventing crimes.

It allows tribes to enter data into national crime information systems and pull information from them, including missing-person reports and criminal histories.

Tribes must apply and be selected to participate in the program, which requires that they have high-speed internet access and policies in place outlining the type of tribal data that can be shared.