Monday, December 28, 2009

Residency Laws May Not Deter Sex Crimes (WI): Residency laws may not deter sex crimes.

The question surfaced regarding Manitowoc not having residency restrictions placed on convicted sex offenders. Residency restrictions have been enacted in more than 25 states. Most often the legislation prohibits sex offenders from living within close proximity (500 to 2,500 feet) of locations where children congregate (schools, parks, day care centers, etc.). In April 2009 the Manitowoc city council considered, but did not pass, a residency restriction ordinance. The council said the promotion of crime prevention and safe behaviors should be a top priority versus creating safe zones.

Minnesota, which has some local residency restrictions, recently conducted a research study of 3,166 sex offenders released from Minnesota prisons from 1990 to 2002, (Duwe, Donnay, and Tewksbury, 2008). The study indicated that of the released sex offenders, 224 were re-incarcerated for a new sex offense before 2006. The results showed that none of the 224 offenders would likely have been stopped by a restricted residency ordinance.

The study noted that many of the offenders (113 of the 224) gained access to their victims through another adult person. The study concluded that residency restrictions would have, at best, only a marginal effect on sexual recidivism and that sex offenders are more likely to be recognized in their neighborhood. It indicated that most recurring sex offenses happened between 1 and 20 miles away from the offender's residence. Offenders pick a residence based on what they can afford and generally pick a victim through an acquaintance or victimize children in their own family.

Communities that have enacted residency restrictions on sex offenders have seen the percentage of offenders that are compliant with the registry drop significantly. Noncompliance with the registry means the information the registry contains is out-of-date and misleading to the public and law enforcement.