Keeping Kids Safe
In the last 10 years there’s been new legislation passed that makes it possible for people to find out if there is a sex offender living in their neighborhood. The sex offender registries list the names and addresses of people who have been convicted of a range of sexual misconduct and offenses. The idea combines the “right to know” with the neighborhood watch concept to help keep kids (and adults) as safe as possible from sex crimes. I’ve been asked about sex offenders in Kent and I decided to do a little research. Read on to see what I found.
For obvious reasons, the mere mention of sex offenders will get people’s attention in a hurry, so finding out that there’s one living down the block can be quite alarming. Whether you have kids or not, this is a very troubling topic that can leave anyone feeling vulnerable for themselves and those they love.
The availability of the sex offender registries on the Internet (in Ohio) definitely raised the awareness of the general public to the problem. And that’s a good thing. We need to have access to that kind of information so that we can be smart, take precautions and be alert. But it also seems that the registries can create a lot of fear which was certainly not the intention but has been an all too common reaction. And I’m not sure fear is a good thing in this case.
[Click here to see What the Law Says]
Clearly, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to criminal presence, but based on some of the emotional reactions that result from discovering the criminal history of your neighbor I think it’s equally important to understand the big picture. I’m no expert but I’m good about doing my homework and learning from the experts. Here’s some of the important things that I learned that help frame the whole discussion of sex offenses. These points may not alleviate all your concerns but I do think they help us understand the risk involved in a more meaningful way.
1. Sex Offenders are All Around — just because the lists are now public and you’re able to know who has been convicted of sex offenses, doesn’t mean that you’re any more at risk than you were before the list. The fact is 80% of us have a sex offender living within 1 mile of our home. It’s that prevalent. 80% is a big number so it’s a mistake to think that one neighborhood is necessarily any worse than any other. The research suggests that the problem crosses socio-economic borders. It happens everywhere.
2. The Offenders are Usually Family and Friends — it’s sad to say but the Justice Department reports that 90% of the offenders are friends or family of the victim. Random strangers rarely commit these crimes. So you or a family member are at a much greater risk from those close to you than from an unknown offender living somewhere in your neighborhood.
3. Kids Hurting Kids — I was surprised to see that over 50% of the juvenile offenses are kids hurting other kids. So yes, tell your kids to be cautious of strangers, but don’t overlook what kids can do to other kids.
4. Repeat Offenses — The Justice Department reports that recidivism rates for sex offenders is below that for other crimes. The data is not perfect but it seems to suggest that treatment can work for most offenders.
With some of that basic information in hand I wanted to better understand how prevalent sex offenders were in our community so I did some more searching and compiling of the data. I came up with the following chart showing the number of registered offenders in Kent versus some of our regional peer cities. The numbers I calculated come straight from the US Census Bureau population figures and the sex offender registries — all I did was divide the numbers.
In reviewing the regional numbers, Kent appears to be in lower tier of the chart, which is exactly where you’d want to be. Still, it’s important to remember that this problem is everywhere so don’t feel too complacent with Kent’s relative ranking but likewise we can’t live our lives in fear and if these numbers help reduce that fear somewhat then that’s a good thing.