Who is the Sex Offender Next Door?

State and federal regulations require sex offenders to register with local law enforcement in an effort to provide public awareness of the whereabouts of potential sexual predators. After all, if the boogeyman cannot hide, he cannot get you--right? Sex offenders are listed and published on the National Sex Offender Public Registry and locally on the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry. Sites like Family Watchdog take it a step further to map registered sex offenders, making it easy to see the sex offenders in your neighborhood or nearby. All of this available information is supposedly intended to protect people from violent, dangerous, and high-risk sex offenders. However, not all sex crimes are created equal, although they are often treated that way by the sex offender registries. Instead, public awareness of most sex offenders on the registry simply feed stereotypes and hysteria, making parents certain that the boogeyman is hiding just around the corner--that the neighborhood sex offender is lurking in the shadows, ready to snatch and assault their children. However, sex offender registries are not a deterrent for sexual predators, and most people on the registry are already at little to no risk of re-offending. In 2009, a registered sex offender who was required to wear a GPS ankle monitor attempted to rape a 13-year-old girl before beating and stabbing her to death. In May of this year, a convicted sex offender raped a 2-year-old girl and killed her great grandparents less than 12 hours after being released from jail on a probation violation related to his conviction for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl four years earlier. Clearly, in these scenarios, the public should be protected from violent predators, but the sex offender registries failed to provide any protection. Furthermore, the majority of registered sex offenders are not predators. In "From Perverts to Pranksters: Problems with Sex Offender Registries," author Derek Smith details the failings of sex offender registries: "Another problem with some states’ registries lies in the overly broad classification of crimes as sex offenses. In at least ten states, you can earn the sex offender designation from fairly innocuous forms of public indecency like streaking, mooning, or urinating in public. None of the registries provide any factual details of the offenses, just the names of the crimes (and sometimes not even that). So if a registry lists the offense of indecent exposure, for example, the public has no way of distinguishing a high school prankster who streaks a football game from a creep who purposely goes to a playground and waves his member at children to achieve sexual gratification. Many registries also contain numerous purely statutory offenders who are often also minors at the time of the offense, such as a 17 year-old who engages in consensual sexual activity with his 15 year-old girlfriend. In many jurisdictions, this would be labeled 'sexual assault against a minor,' which makes this person look like a greater threat than the circumstances suggest. By effectively diluting the sex offender registry with people who pose little threat to public safety, it is more difficult to identify and keep track of the high-risk offenders." According to Smith, ". . . Statistically speaking, you are more likely to be victimized by a someone with no history of sex crimes than by an already registered sex offender." He goes on to write that information on sex offender registries does not prove useful for preventing sex crimes or improving safety: "Most sex offenses are committed by first-time offenders who know their victims, not strangers who have previously been convicted, the registry could not have provided useful information for prevention in the majority of cases." What the registry is useful for, he writes, is promoting vigilante "justice" against those who may be guilty of minor offenses, or even those who are not guilty at all. To read more about sex offender registration requirements in Oklahoma, visit our website, or click here to contact an attorney about your case.

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