Wagner said the site was not user friendly in a number of ways, among them, it does not allow for spelling mistakes in towns or names in searches and uses poor-quality photos of offenders.
As a result, the Website doesn't give user any leeway in the name of a locality and the user might get a response that no offenders in locations where there are in fact offenders living there.
In some cases the photos of the offenders are almost unidentifiable; some have their eyes closed, others are wearing baseball caps, still others are wearing tinted glasses.
"The whole point of the Megan's Law is to recognize offenders," said Helen Weigel, director of special audits. "This compromises the public's ability to recognize offenders."
Wagner also said the site has no function to allow users to see on maps exactly where an offender lives, a feature common in other states.
Of the 10,000 convicted sex offenders listed on the site, about 1,000 are so-called "sexually violent predators," who have committed the most serious category of crimes primarily against children.
Maj. Scott Snyder, director of the Pennsylvania State Police bureau of records and identification, said his agency has been hamstrung by budget constraints but is working to upgrade and modernize the site and plans to have new features in place by December.
In a letter to Wagner, Snyder said the department has made "tremendous headway" in showing all residences, schools, and employment addresses for registered sexual offenders on a map.
He also said the agency is examining the feasibility of providing users who request it with e-mail or cell phone notification when an offender moves into their area.
Among Wagner's recommendations: post multiple photos that are clear and current, list all sex offenses for which an offender was convicted, upgrade the site's search feature to allow more types of searches, include a sex offender mapping tool and e-mail notification so that members of the public can learn when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood.
Wagner said state police will need additional funding in this year's state budget and that some of the changes-such as allowing multiple photos to be posted-will need legislative approval.
The special report follows an audit of the state Megan's Law that Wagner conducted in 2006. That audit showed the website failed to provide public with basic information such as street addresses of offenders now available online.
"I believe the changes made have saved lives," said Wagner. "I believe further improvements of the Megan's Law site can do the same."
The website is pameganslaw.state.pa.us
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or firstname.lastname@example.org.