Studies show that while public sex offender registries sound like a good way to keep a community safe, the numbers tell a different story. And widely held beliefs turn out to be myths — among the more prevalent is that most sex offenders are pedophiles who might snatch a child from a park or bus stop.
Here are the myths, and the research that debunks them.
■ Sex offenders are among criminals most likely to re-offend.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics examined 9,691 sex offenders from 15 states and found that 5.3% were arrested within three years of being released from prison, compared with 73.8% of those who committed property crimes and 66.7% of those convicted of drug offenses. The number drops even lower with the passage of time, with the majority of the new crimes committed within five years of release.
■ Most sexual assaults are committed by a stranger.
"Stranger danger" is rare. Studies show about 93% of child sexual abuse victims knew their assailant, about 34.3% are family members, and 58.7% friends or acquaintances, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
■ Online sex offender registries stop rapists, pedophiles and child pornographers from re-offending.
Exhaustive studies the last two decades found public registries had little or no impact on reducing crime rates.
Researchers at the University of Albany examined 21 years of data on more than 160,000 convicted sex offenders in New York State. About 95% of those convicted were first-time offenders, so the registry had no impact and would not have served as a warning to the community.
A 10-year study, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010, examined South Carolina sex offender registry and notification laws. It found an 11% decrease in first-time sex crime arrests after the nonpublic registry was created in 1995. However, there was no significant decline in the years after 1999, when South Carolina created its public online sex offender registry. ..Source.. by L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free Press
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