Encounters with registered sex offenders? Well, there are more than 600,000 currently in the United States according to many sources, so there is a good probability that you are going to have some kind of encounter. That likelihood goes way up when you consider something I have known for a long time and confirmed in a 2008 report from the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany; in more than 95% of all arrests for sex crimes, the arrestee is a first time offender! That 600,000 number is going to grow. Of course the popular wisdom is to vigilantly monitor the state sex offender web site to know where sex offenders are living and thereby keep your children and family safe. Wisdom, indeed!
Is it wisdom to watch a group of people repeatedly shown to have a 5 to 7% re-offense rate, perhaps. However, when over 95% of all sex crimes are being committed by people that no legal mechanism can identify as dangerous to your children, perhaps you should watch your children more carefully. How? You incurred that responsibility when you became parents, YOU figure it out and YOU make the sacrifices necessary to protect your children. If you enlist other family members or trusted friends to help when you can’t, remember this: 34% of sexual assaults of persons under age 18 are committed by family members, 59% by acquaintances, and only 7% by strangers. Are you really so stupid that you think some law or government program is going to do your job and keep your children safe for you?
Adam Walsh was left at a video game display while his mother went around the corner, out of sight, for no more than five or ten minutes to shop for lamps. If she had kept Adam with her, that tragedy would never have happened. And keeping all sex offenders locked up would not have had the least effect – the man John Walsh blamed for the abduction and murder of his son in 1997, and the Hollywood Florida police in 2008 – was not a convicted sex offender! Neither was the man who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart. Neither were those responsible for the murders of Carlie Brucia (Florida January 2004), Sommer Thompson (Florida January 2010), Danielle Van Dam (California February 2002) and Samantha Runnion (California July 2002) among others.
And moving to an area that restricts residency for sex offenders will not help either. Minnesota reports that “over the last 16 years, not one sex offender released from a MCF [Minnesota Correctional Facility] has been re-incarcerated for a sex offense in which he made contact with a juvenile victim near a school, park, or daycare center close to his home.” The Colorado Department of Public Safety reported that sex offenders who committed subsequent sex crimes did not reside closer to venues frequented by children than those sex offenders who were not repeat offenders. Jacob Wetterling was an 11 year-old when he was kidnapped at gun-point in 1989. Since then, his mother has been a tireless crusader for protecting children and founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center to educate families and communities. Jacobs’s mother has personally issued statements, and the JWRC has published on-line, that they do not support residency restrictions for sex offenders because it has been shown that such laws actually increase the likelihood that they will re-offend.
Encounter a sex offender? The laws can only identify those that are caught. Those citing “under-reporting” only tell you half the story. A full reading of the reports reveals that 59% of those not reporting said the “assault” wasn’t important enough. The term assault as used in the study included verbal harassment, accidental touches, unwanted kisses and other incidents you wouldn’t really visualize when someone says “sexual assault”. Unreported assaults do happen and can result in physical and/or emotional harm, but not to the extent that those who misrepresent these studies would have you believe.
The bottom line is that if you watch known sex offenders you are only reducing the possibility that they will be assaulted by 5% at the most; watch your children and they will be far safer!
Sandler, Freeman, and Socia; Does A Watched Pot Boil? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law; Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 2008, Vol. 14, No. 4, 284-302
John Walsh; Tears of Rage; 1997, Pocket Books pg 44