Back in 2011, I posted a musing about the growth of the registry at the time. This is what I wrote:
“The NCMEC has reported that in June 2011, there was a total of 739,853 registered sex offenders in the United States.
The US Census population for the US in 2010 is 308,745,538. That means about one in every 417 people in the US is on the sex offender registry.
If they all lived in one solitary city, they would make the 17th largest city in the US, eight thousand more than Charlotte, NC and just two thousand less than the 16th Largest City– Ft. Worth, TX.
If they all moved to one state, they would outnumber every resident of the following states– Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, or Wyoming.
In May 2007, the NCMEC reported there were 602,189 RSOs. In 49 months between May 2007 and June 2011, there were 137,664 new registrants added; that is 33,714 new registrants in a year, 2,809 in a month, 92 per day, 4 per hour, or about one new registrant added every 15 minutes.
At the current 33,714 per year average is maintained, the registrant population will top 1 million by March, 2019 (7 years and 9 months from June 2011).”
The inclusion of names on the government blacklist called the “public sex offense registry” was last reported by NCMEC in December 2018 to have 917,771 names. Whether this is entirely accurate is debatable (some states list out-of-state, deported, incarcerated, and even deceased individuals on their blacklists), but however you cut it, we aren’t far away from that milestone number of one million, according to the one source people seemingly trust the most to gather such statistics.
Now, the NCMEC has been gathering and releasing this map showing the number of registered citizens in each US state and territory since at least 2005 (the oldest map I could find on the Web Archive), updating the map roughly every six months. The last update was December 4, 2018. But not only have we not received an update for 2019, the NCMEC has removed this map from their website!
The NCMEC has a “Sex Offender Tracking Team” (SOTT); these were the people tasked with doing this biannual count. Copy and paste the old link to the SOTT page (http://www.missingkids.org/ourwork/sott) in the Web Archive to see the old STT page which states, “In addition to the technical assistance listed above, SOTT analysts assist in NCMEC’s clearinghouse role by providing the following resources: Act as a liaison among state registries; the U.S. Marshals Service; and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Conduct biannual surveys of sex offender registries and maintain a count of registered sex offenders in the United States. Make available to the public the number of registered offenders for each state.” The SOTT still exists but has removed this statement from their list of services (see http://www.missingkids.com/ourwork/caseresources).
(As an aside, this SOTT also advertises itself as a group that compiles data on registrants within a certain radius of a missing person case. I have yet to see a single case of a child saved from an area sweep utilizing the public registry in this manner.)
As reported by the Dobbs Wire:
“Is the sex offense registry growing or shrinking? Hard to tell because the long-time keeper of the national statistics, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), has stopped updating the figures! Every six months for many years NCMEC put a new 50 state map online with the latest numbers. The updated statistics are now months overdue. NCMEC didn’t respond to our questions but we managed to get a reporter for a major media outlet to query them. The word came back – NCMEC confirmed that it no longer updates the map. The reporter, unfortunately, never filed a story, and NCMEC has not announced the change. So you heard it here first – with 900,000 listings and counting, several million people directly impacted — the figures have gone missing. NCMEC is a private entity that gets the bulk of its funding from the federal government, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. NCMEC is also the group that incited public fears over ‘stranger danger.’ Losing the statistics is lousy but there might be a silver lining – this failure by NCMEC may prompt the federal government to step in and keep tabs on the official blacklist. The US Department of Justice ought to take on this task because these numbers should not be entrusted to a private group that has other agendas. If you have any ideas drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org”
I am sure we all have our suspicions as to why this statistic mysteriously vanished and the NCMEC no longer does a count. Perhaps this number wasn’t accurate to begin with; when I conducted a count of the Alabama registry in 2017, there were only about 7000 names listed publicly, while the NCMEC stated there were roughly 14,000 on the list at that time. (Alabama lists out-of-state registrants, by the way.) But I think there’s a different hypothesis—I believe with this government blacklist having so many names, it is hard to justify keeping so many names on this ineffective registry.
In the past decade, people are starting to become aware of the fact the registry is not limited to “the worst of the worst.” Over the years, we’ve seen kids as young as age nine listed on this government blacklist. We have seen people who did not even commit sexual offenses land on this list. In some states, you can land on the registry for prostitution, public urination, or teens engaging in consensual sexual activity with same-age teens. A growing number of people publicly question the efficacy of this government blacklist. The larger this list grows, the greater the skepticism that this list is limited to the “worst of the worst” grows beside the list. Reaching ONE MILLION names will only bring the skepticism to a tipping point.
In some areas of the country, this public pillory is already on shaky ground. Michigan is scrambling to salvage a bloated registry rebuked by the 6th Circuit court. Nebraska is looking to scale back the public registry, and Ohio’s sentencing commission recommended repealing statewide residency restrictions and reverting to a risk-based classification system, which would make them the first state to permanently repeal the Adam Walsh Act. (Delaware unintentionally became non-compliant with the AWA but passed legislation to bring the state back into compliance, according to the “SMART” Office.)
If the numbers the NCMEC has put out for years turns out to be inaccurate, then they’ll have a lot of explaining to do; indeed, some people have suggested the numbers are inflated. Whatever the number may be, there are numerous lives destroyed by this useless, bloated, ineffective government blacklist that has proven useful to only one group of people—vigilantes. People have been harassed, attacked, and even killed thanks to this government blacklist. The only solution is abolishment of the registry. Even the NCMEC would benefit from it, since they’d no longer feel obligated to count the names on this arbitrary government hitlist and divert resources to prevention and education programs that actually work.