The proximity of schools and daycares to where sex offenders live “explains none of the variation in sexual recidivism,” concludes a study by Levenson, Zandbergen & Hart.
The study matched the 165 persons listed on Florida’s sex offender registry in 2007 who were re-arrested for a sex crime in 2004-2006. It matched them with 165 non-recidivists with relevant risk factors (prior convictions, age, marital status, predator status). While this sample was not representative of Florida’s sex offender population, it was “actually a more high risk group than a randomly selected sample would be.”
The locations of schools, daycares, and offenders’ residences were mapped. Buffers of 1,000 and 2,500 feet around each offender’s residence were determined to count the number of schools and daycares within the buffer.
More than half the offenders live within 2,500 feet of a school or daycare center. Many were within close proximity to such venues because they had established their residence prior to various laws going into effect.
In comparing the proportions of recidivists and non-recidivists who lived within common buffer zones of 1,000, 1,500, or 2,500 feet of schools or day care centers, offenders “were no more likely to reoffend sexually than those who lived further away.” The study went on to conclude there was a virtually non-existent correlation between reoffending and proximity to schools and daycares.
As such, there is no justification for the widespread enactment of residential restrictions for sex offenders. Such laws “divert law enforcement resources away from behaviors that truly threaten our communities in order to attend to a problem that simply does not exist.”
Moreover, “residence restrictions greatly diminish housing options for sex offenders, resulting in increased homelessness, transience, and instability, undermining the very purpose of registries and exacerbating known risk factors for criminal recidivism,” states the study. “Residence restriction decisions should be made on an individualized risk basis management and not legislated.” See: “Residential Proximity to Schools and Daycare Centers: Influence on Sex Offense Recidivism,” Zanderbergen et al., Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. XX, No. X, Month 2007 482, 2010.
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