A Patch.com article entitled “Sex Offenders: How Illinois Ranks On Registry,” published June 27, 2019, proclaims that Illinois ranks 25th, smack dab in the middle of the list for most registered persons per capita. The article cited ASecureLife, a private website that reviews (and promotes) various security products. In turn, ASecureLife cited the stats from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The statistic has no real meaning, quite frankly. In 2011, Indiana, the state next to Illinois, endured the tragic murder of Aliahna Lemmon. The media focused on the trailer park where Lemmon resided because many registered persons resided in the same park; the media made it a point to dig up Aliahna’s grandfather’s sex offense. The person who eventually confessed to the murder was the babysitter with no prior sex offense arrest and was not on any sex offense registry. In June 2019, NY child Patrick Alford, Jr., went missing; the news media reported, “Convicted sex offenders living nearby were sought, but nothing panned out.”
While we like to turn our attention to people on the registry during these tragic cases, studies have shown that most sex crimes occur in the home by someone known to the victim, and rarely will that person have a prior criminal record. That is why “sex offender sweeps” and focusing on concentrations of registered persons in a certain area do not lead to any unique threat to children.
The article states the states with the most registered persons per capita are Oregon, Arkansas, Delaware, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, Tennessee, and Florida/ Mississippi. Of these states, eight of them (all but AR, DE, OR, and WI) are states compliant with the federal Adam Walsh Act. Florida is considered by many to be the worst state for registrants to reside, yet it makes the top 10 per capita list. (It should be duly noted that only around 45% of people listed on the Florida registry actually reside in the state; many on Florida’s registry are in prison, live out-off-state, have been deported or passed away.)
Imagine walking to your door to pick up your daily newspaper (apparently still a thing in many places) and picking up a newspaper with the front page headine reading “SEX OFFENDER HAVEN” in giant letters in front. The Oregonian did just that; The Oregonian published a giant headline in 2013 proclaiming “Oregon: Sex Offender Haven” after it was noted they had the highest PER CAPITA number of registered citizens in America. Oregonian reporter Maxine Bernstein reported (without any evidence to support her claim, of course) that registered persons primarily move to “avoid detection.” That simply lacks logic, as someone seeking to avoid detection could simply take their chances by not registering at all.
Bernstein then made the following statement:
“Harney County led the state with 10.29 sex offenders per 1,000 population followed by Malheur County, with 9.97 sex offenders per capita. Sex offenders have moved into Harney County from out of state and from other bigger cities in Oregon, such as Bend and Salem and Portland, because it’s less expensive to live there and social services may be easier to access, said Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup. ‘We have a lot of registered sex offenders who move here from somewhere else,’ Glerup said.”
Harney County, Oregon has a population of 7,244 people and a landmass of 10,226 Square Miles; by comparison, the Vermont is 9,616 square miles in size. Malheur County has a population of 30,480 and a landmass of 9,930 square miles; New Hampshire is only 9,349 square miles. There were only 70 registrants in Harney County and about 100 in Malheur County. This isn’t exactly what I’d call a mass exodus of registrants flocking to a landmass larger than two New England states.
According to the 2017 Oregon State Police Crime Report (https://www.oregon.gov/osp/Docs/2017UCRAnnualReport.pdf), there were zero reports of rape, and 5 reports of “other sex crime” leading to a single arrest in Harney County. Malheur County had 4 forcible rape reports leading to 0 arrests, 14 reports of “other sex crimes” leading to 5 arrests, and one “peeping Tom” incident leading to an arrest. None of the crimes appear to involve anyone on the registry. (It should also be noted that 0 registrants in Harney County and only 5 in Malheur County are “high-risk” registrants, and only those considered a high-risk are published on the Oregon Registry.)
Media reporters love to engage in fear tactics because it sells advertising space online and allows the tradition of printed media to continue to exist. There is a common theme with these reports—reporters find a certain state, county, or city has a higher “per capita” number, write a story asking why this location, and write speculation. What is missing from these reports is the fact that few sex crimes involve those currently forced to register.
There is a simple explanation as to why one area has more registered persons than another – some place will inevitably have more registered persons than others. The states with the most registered persons—California, Texas, and Florida, also have the largest populations of people in America. Sure, some people on the registry may choose to move to a new state because the next state has less restrictive laws, but many registrants live and even move to states that I would consider among the worst places to live in America, like Florida. But many people on registry move for the same reasons why any other person in America chooses to move, like a new job or for reasons related to family.
Beware of media buzzwords like “haven’ or “magnet.” These words are meaningless words used by the media to scare the public into viewing their reports (after you watch the ads, of course). KRCR also boasted a scary headline about a local fair potentially being a “magnet for sex offenders”; near the bottom of that article was a statement that is unsurprising to registry reformists. “‘We want all the parents to feel safe knowing that they can bring their kids and have a great time at the Shasta District Fair,’ said Officer Jason Morton, an officer with the California Highway Patrol in Redding. ‘We haven’t had any real issues with sex offenders for the last nine years that I’ve worked here.’”
Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com
Registered Citizen/ Civil Rights Advocate