Monday, October 02, 2006

Bloated sex offender registry suffers same problem as probation system

Texas' sex offender registry suffers from essentially the same problem as the state's overburdened probation system: too many people are on it for too long so that authorities disperse limited supervision resources instead of concentrating them on those who are most dangerous. Reported the Dallas News ("Sex offender label makes no distinciton," and "Dallas may limit sex offender homes," Oct. 2):
as Texas police departments buckle under the strain of monitoring an ever-growing list of offenders, experts question whether forcing juveniles and low-level offenders to register is a waste of time and resources.

With a crowded registry, they say, law enforcement officials spend too much time keeping track of low-risk sex offenders – and not enough zeroing in on the state's most dangerous predators. And there's far more opportunity for error. A Dallas Morning News investigation into the state's sex offender registry found that the database is laden with mistakes – phony or outdated addresses that allow potentially thousands of Texas sex offenders to slip through the cracks.

That's the irony here - expanding the lifetime sex offender registry to include two-bit pimps or minors who had consensual sex has meant authorities are less likely to effectively supervise more serious sexual predators. That's why for sex offenders, like the general probation population, reducing the number of offenders supervised would actually make the public safer.

Don't think a bloated, unreliale database affects supervision? The News checked up on a sample from the sex offender database and found that one in six addresses were bad, and 46% of offenders could not be contacted using the information available to authorities ("Losing track of sex offenders," Oct. 1.):
The result? Vigilant parents and community groups are relying on faulty or incomplete data to protect themselves. Some homeowners are targeted as sex offenders because their addresses mistakenly appear in the database. And hundreds of the region's sex offenders are avoiding registration or filing false information with law enforcement agencies – some to hide in the crowd, others to re-offend.
The sex offender registry is an example of a well-intentioned idea implemented so ham-handededly, so overzealously, that between dispersing limited police resources and conveying a false sense of security to the public, it probably makes Texas less safe. It should be rolled back to include only the most serious, violent predators - that's who the public wants protection from, not the 18 year old who banged a freshman Friday night after the football game.


Anonymous said...

For the first time you have an article here that I totally agree with. I was shocked when I first got to Canyon Tex. 3 years agao to see multiple offenders scattered through out Canyon.

Further investigation revealed them to all be offenders in only the most broad of definitions. He said she said, husband and wife issues, 19 year old with a concenting 17 year old stuff like that.

The registry is a good idea but should be reserved strickly for those whose crimes were against children or violent stranger rape.

In thruth these people should be in prison or executed. But the liberal system being what it is the registry is the best alternative.

Also along with the address of pedophiles and rapist their actual crime should be listed.

800 pound gorilla said...

Who checks these lists anyway? We have two teenagers, one female, and we take care of our own business, educating our kids how to react when unwanted attention comes their way. We keep close tabs on their whereabouts and we don't stigmatize their personal choices. They are hard targets for any would be child abuser.

Why should we obsess over how many registered offenders live in our area? The ones that have surfaced in our community don't live nearby anyway. They drive in from neighboring Corvallis [5 miles away] or Albany [12 miles away]. Crafty criminals don't commit crimes in neighborhoods where they can be easily recognized; that's the surest way to getting apprehended. All these lists accomplish is piling on extra punishment [stigmatization] for a crime that they have already served time. Another feel good "pile on" penalty by legisliars who make careers by not solving problems = just making life miserable for "someone else".

Anonymous said...

The sex offender list is worthless. Here in California I personally know of a truck driver that is on the list for taking a whiz on a deserted highway at night while standing between his rig and trailer. He has lost his long time job and his life is now ruined forever. A good thing has been twisted into a useless tool. When will you be required to be on the list?

Anonymous said...

I know this is a dated entry but could not help but comment. There is a growing group of Texans who are attempting to get a legislator to propose just such a bill that would focus lifetime sex offender registration only on the most dangerous offenders thereby allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on those people who we should actually fear. The intention is not to decriminalize any offense but to differentiate those who are dangerous from those who are not. Current laws lump all offenders together no matter what the offense thus requiring the exact same lifetime law enforcement resources. This is not an efficient use for taxpayer money and does not make anyone safer. This group has an initial website set up that will be upgraded very soon. But you can get some info at