Sex Offender Registry

Publishing Registered Sex Offenders' Home Addresses Before Halloween Is Gratuitous, Unethical, and Reckless

A petition urges Patch and other news outlets to reconsider the practice.

|

Every year in the run-up to Halloween, Patch publishes maps showing the homes of "registered sex offenders" in various cities. Ostensibly, this information is aimed at helping parents who worry that their children might be molested while trick-or-treating. But research shows that such fears have no basis in reality, and these stories—like the warning signs and restrictions imposed by local police prior to Halloween—mainly serve to stigmatize people who have already completed their sentences, along with their spouses and children, who have committed no crimes at all. That stigma invites harassment, vandalism, and violence. Like much local journalism, the practice of publishing these maps is ill-informed sensationalism masquerading as a public service.

This fall a petition organized by the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) is urging Patch and other outlets to cut it out. Noting the "total lack of evidence that the publication of these addresses at Halloween keeps children safe," the petition asks news organizations to "cease a hurtful publication practice that has no positive effect at all on child protection or public safety."

The irrationality of that practice is clear once you understand a few basic facts:

1. Sex offender registries include a wide range of people, many of whom were not convicted of crimes against children.

2. Sex offenders stay on the registry long after they have completed their official punishment, even though they are less likely to commit new offenses of the same type than people convicted of other crimes. According to a 2019 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), less than 8 percent of people who had served sentences for rape or sexual assault were rearrested for a similar crime within nine years after they were released. That report also shows that the annual risk of recidivism falls dramatically over time.

3. The vast majority of sexually abused minors—93 percent, according to a 2000 BJS report—are assaulted by relatives, family friends, or other people they already know.

4. The vast majority of convicted sex offenders—86 percent, according to another BJS report—have no prior convictions for this category of crime, so they would not have shown up in registries.

5. There is no evidence that children face a higher risk of sexual assault on Halloween than they do the rest of the year. A 2009 analysis of 67,000 cases, reported in the journal Sexual Abuse, found "no increased rate on or just before Halloween."

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) amplifies that last point: "A heightened risk of being sexually abused is NOT one of the dangers children face at Halloween. The simple fact is that there are no significant increases in sex crimes on or around Halloween. There is no 'Halloween effect.' There is no change in the rate of sexual crimes by non-family members during Halloween. That was true both before and after communities enacted laws to restrict the activities of registrants during Halloween."

In light of this evidence, the NARSOL petition argues, pre-Halloween stories showing the homes of people on the sex offender registry are gratuitous, unethical, and reckless. NARSOL adds that the focus on a nonexistent threat distracts attention from the main perpetrators of sex offenses against children, which are rarely committed by strangers, and from the main danger that kids face on Halloween: traffic accidents. The Washington Post reports that "children are three times more likely to be fatally injured by a car on the holiday, and the risk grows to 10 times for kids 4 to 8."

The 150 or so signatories include ATSA, activists and journalists (including Reason contributor Lenore Skenazy) who support reform of sex offense laws, and an impressive list of professionals and academics. Among them are Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins University; Jill Levenson, a professor of social work at Barry University; Fred Berlin, director of the National Institute for the Study, Prevention, and Treatment of Sexual Trauma; Carleton University psychologist Karl Hanson; Arizona State law professor Ira Ellman; Southwestern Law School professor Catherine Carpenter; and University of Delaware sociologist Chrysanthi Leon.

Might these experts know more about this subject than the editors and writers who insist that parents should "find out where the registered sex offenders are living…before the kids go out trick-or-treating"? Perhaps Patch will consider the possibility.

NEXT: Senate Democrats and Republicans Strike Deal To Subpoena Big Tech CEOs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. But, only before Halloween. Fair game every other day of the year.

    1. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

      Here’s what I do…>> Click here

    2. I Make Money At H0me.Let’s start work offered by Google!!Yes,this is definitely the most financially rewarding Job I’ve had . Last Monday I bought a great Lotus Elan after I been earning $9534 this-last/5 weeks and-a little over, $10k last month . . I started this four months/ago and immediately started to bring home minimum $97 per/hr

      Heres what I do……………………………………………… More INformation Here

    3. Geiger, can you explain what you mean by that?

  2. Hollywood’s gotta be a sea of red dots.

  3. Among them are Elizabeth Letourneau

    Someone’s got to be the first to ask – any relation to Mary Kay Letourneau?

    1. lol hotter sister? and holy shit I just saw Mary Kay is no longer with us.

      1. She departed very recently.

        1. Yes, 14 year old school boys the world over have mourned a great teacher’s passing.

          1. fortunately there will never be an end to the line of hawt teachers.

  4. He’s making a list
    He’s checking it twice
    He’s going to find out
    Who’s naughty and nice, The Great Pumpkin is coming to town.

  5. This will be expanded in the future to include Trump voters, people who failed to raise the fist for blmantifa, people who are patriotic, people who say the pledge of allegiance, people who aren’t in unions, people who aren’t married to people of color, people who owned firearms (they were confiscated), people who don’t have sex with trannies and gays, people who don’t call conservative blacks uncle toms, people who insufficiently raged against white supremacy, people who didn’t join the communist party (once called democrats), people who flush more than once, people who don’t burn down other people’s property, and people who called Cameltoe Harris by the wrong name.

    1. And people who use plastic shopping bags.

      My mom lives in Massachusetts, where plastic bags were banned… and then unbanned and promoted during the height of the virus hysteria. She says that as of today, plastic bags have been re-banned.

      1. Paper bags are next.
        You have to use a formaldehyde soaked bag from Communist China.

    2. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

      hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

      1. Maniacal super-villain laughter, huh?
        I figured that those ideas would turn your crank when I read them, but I had no idea that it would be that much.

    3. Precinct maps of where Republican voters live are already a thing, because what party you registered for is public. Fortunately that tactic to single out Republicans for campaigning purposes is rare, but I have seen it done.

      Unless you have an overridiing need to participate in the primary process, just register independent or decline to state. Be safe out there.

      1. Reminds me of a few years ago, when a journalist idiot with a pen decided to publish a map of concealed carry owners in his state (CT, IIRC). Then one enterprising gun owner published a map of staff associated with that media outlet. Left-wing freakout ensued.

        1. I guess the journalist failed to publish a much longer list of Known & Potential Future Criminals Who Also Happen To Have Illegal Guns?

        2. I thought that was New York, not Connecticut.

          And I heard that there was an outcry from the people who lived near the gun owners, who feared that burglars would know to target their homes instead of the gun owners’.

    4. This is why I live in the fook’n woods. If you go past my house you’d better have a reason to be there.

    5. So what? You think you have some kind of “right” to “privacy” that wins out over other people’s freedoms of speech and the press? You don’t. If you want privacy, keep things in your own head. Alternatively, buy an island, move there, and raise your own crops.

      Yours for radical transparency.

      1. Kill yourself communist faggot.

      2. If you believe in radical transparency, what’s your credit card number? Asking for a friend.

  6. Puritanism remains at pandemic levels in the US, and is nearly always promoted and defended under the false guise of protecting the children.

    1. Puritanism, once associated with mainstream and then fundamentalist Christians, appears in many forms nowadays. It’s not just for the religious right anymore.

    2. Tell me about it! It’s unbearable living in a society with these busybody assholes who don’t even want adults to fuck children.

      1. If you think the sex offender registry is all adults who fucked children, then I recommend you pull your self righteous head out of your humongous asshole. There are people on the registry for getting caught fucking in public places like ummm…. BATHROOMS AT A NIGHT CLUB. There are TEENAGERS on the sex offender registry for taking nude photos of THEMSELVES and sending to their bf/gf.
        You self righteous fuckweeds sure know how to fall for the bullshit fear mongering propaganda of TV shows like LAW & ORDER: SVU which would NEVER do an episode of someone being arrested and FORCED TO REGISTER AS A THREAT TO YOUR PRECIOUS SAFETY for fucking in the back seat of a car like most of us gen Xer’s did. Dumb shitbag.

  7. Wait, what? Halloween is going to happen?
    But THE CHILDREN!!!

  8. How about a registry for white collar criminals.
    Can’t have girl scouts potentially selling cookies at the home of michael milken, or trick-or-treaters falling prey to schemes of jeff skilling.
    And speeders. They pose a danger to kids on halloween, so they too should be called out. Better, the sheriff should boot their cars. Same for folks with a history of DWI. And guns owners, can’t have guns possibly available on halloween…

    1. How about a registry for voters?

      1. Nah, that’d be racists. Or something.

    2. >>speeders

      and then they came for me … drive it like you stole it.

  9. But… but… SEX OFFENDERS!!!

    Some dude is out there who had sex with his sixteen year old girlfriend when he was seventeen, I WANT TO KNOW WHERE THAT PREDATOR LIVES so I can keep my chillirn safe!

    1. I just want to know where his girlfriend lives!

      1. In del Boca Vista. She’s 70 now and has several grandchildren.

    2. It’s so true! Nobody is ever convicted of legitimate sex crimes. Every single person on the sex offender registry is an innocent victim who played grab ass in high school and went straight to federal prison for it. Just like every person in prison on drug charges is there because he got caught by a White Supremacist copper smoking a doobie!

      1. Well, you ALMOST got it right but then you had to be a shitbag. The sex offender registry didn’t exist prior to 1994 so what fear mongering were you concerned with prior to then? Needles in candy bars? The registry is full of people with consenting issues that were only illegal due to an age difference. And age difference- MIND YOU – that is only 2 to 3 yrs older than the other person is the other (younger) person is below the legal age of consent per that state. That means your lovely HIGH SCHOOL CHILDREN who are 17 but the younger bf/gf is 15 will get listed on your registry of “predators”. Gee, I wonder how many skeletons you have in YOUR closet. Ever get it on with your partner in the back seat like many of us Gen Xer’s did? That’s a sex offense, too, you fucking know it all. Or how about all those teenagers who sent naked photos of themselves to their bf/gf, eh? Are you afraid of them, too?
        Must suck living a life of fear and relying on government to protect you and main stream media to fill your empty skull with more fear mongering propaganda. Sucks to be you.

  10. So what happens if they get the list of sex offenders confused with the list of employees?

    THAT would be funny.

  11. Let’s have a good cry for the rapists and molesters.

    Meanwhile, mass media is promoting a fantasy of white supremacists run amok, as communists burn cities down.
    Can’t imagine that brainwashing half the country to see white supremacists waiting around every corner would have any significant negative effects…

    1. Let’s also make sure we cry for all the teenagers who took nude pics of themselves and sent them via text messages to their boyfriend/girlfriend. Let’s also cry for the adults who got caught fucking in a public bathroom at a nightclub (because that never happens). Let’s also cry for the teenagers who also got caught getting it on somewhere that’s considered “public places”. Or the people who pulled over on the highway to take a piss in the bushes. Yup! Unbeknownst to jackholes like you, those are all sex offenses. And those are the people you’re so fucking scared of. Gee…. what were you scared of BEFORE the enactment of the sex offender registry in 1994? I’d be interested to know. ????????????????

  12. “According to a 2019 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), less than 8 percent of people who had served sentences for rape or sexual assault were rearrested for a similar crime within nine years after they were released.”

    “The vast majority of convicted sex offenders—86 percent, according to another BJS report—have no prior convictions for this category of crime, so they would not show up in registries.”

    If these two statistics are correct, given the general prevalence of criminal recidivism, they seems to suggest that perhaps, just maybe, false accusations are a lot more common than feminists would care to admit.

    1. The statistics are correct, and there probably are more false accusations than we think there are, but what the numbers suggest is that those who have committed sexual crimes of any sort, once convicted, punished, and living in the community, rarely commit another one. The very small percentage who either cannot or will not alter their behavior are responsible for all the horrific headlines. Every day we see, “Registered offender arrested for another sexual crime,” or the equivalent, over and over. That is 5% or less of all registrants. When do you ever see a headline saying, “Registered offender has lived ten years offense free, is raising a family, contributing to his community, and being an all-around good guy.” That is the vast majority of those on the registry.

  13. You know what’s really scary? Witches. They should publish the addresses of all known witches.

    Except Samantha. She was nice.

    1. She was bewitching.

    2. Witches can’t be intimidated, they must be burned or drownded.

    3. LOL! See, it’s funny because non-existent witches are exactly the same as people who have been convicted in a public court of law of fucking children.

  14. The irrationality of that practice is clear once you understand a few basic facts:

    Whether the policy is rational or irrational is a question that concerns progressives and technocrats.

    From a libertarian point of view, what matters is the preferences of property owners. Whether they are rational or irrational is none of your business.

    It’s not surprising that Reason talks about these issues like progressives and technocrats.

  15. Publishing Registered Sex Offenders’ Home Addresses

    So we know where Tony and Buttplug live now, I guess.

  16. Cruel and unusual punishment.

  17. Remember when all those sister-fucking conservative fuddy duddies said during the gay cake baking debate, and the gay marriage debate, and the male sex offenders who identify as women in women’s locker rooms debate, and the male sex offenders who identify as women in women’s prisons debate, and the state forcing parents to sterilize their children and mutilate their genitals debate, that the next thing was going to be mainstreaming pedophilia? It’s good to see libertarians ahead of the curve, as usual. I wonder how long it will before the debate shifts to whether pedophiles should be assigned a child to fuck by the state. I’m going to say 8 years.

  18. Patch isn’t going to comply with the request, the article and maps are click bait. Would not surprise me if it is one of the busiest days of the year for them.

    Facts have never mattered in the case of registered sex offenders. For instance, Florida has 30,000+ people on their registry that don’t even reside in the State of Florida. Confusing to understand how that makes anyone safer but they probably get $100/year for each person on the list from the federal government and want to keep receiving that $3,000,000/year. In addition, numerous studies have shown there is no Halloween effect and the recidivism of sex offenders is somewhere between 3-8%. As the article states, most are first time offenders who would not be on the registry yet and most offenders are known to the victim. They are not strangers. And finally, studies show registries have had NO effect on number of crimes going up or down since instituted. In other words, it has no effect.

    Registries are a direct violation of the 8th amendments Cruel and Unusual punishment and should have been struck down by the Supreme Court when the first case was brought over a decade ago.

    Few people care these people’s lives have been ruined and that in a majority of the States, the registry is for live no matter what crime they committed that put them on there. It is a combination of it doesn’t affect them and the emotion the words “Sex Offender” brings out in people. You can bet if it was a DUI registry (over 1.5 million people get DUI’s every year) it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment even though that would save more children than the SORNA ever will.

    1. Registries are a direct violation of the 8th amendments Cruel and Unusual punishment and should have been struck down by the Supreme Court when the first case was brought over a decade ago.

      The state and federal government should perhaps not keep such registries.

      But it seems perfectly legitimate to me for private companies, local neighborhoods, and HOAs to keep track of past criminal conviction, provide that information to others, and discriminate based on it.

      What libertarian argument can you make against that?

      1. I don’t have a libertarian argument, just a common sense one.

        Once people are not forced by law to tell you where they are living or any other personal information so it can be listed on a public website, you will find private companies, local neighborhoods, and HOA’s will not have the ability to track them. All that information is coming directly from the registries and to get it any other way would cost an exorbitant amount of money the average citizen would not be willing to pay for.

  19. Um…… you do realize that literally anyone with an internet connection can look up sex offender addresses near them. Right?

    Horrendous take here, Reason.

  20. My Sister does computer forensics for a District Attorney’s Office. A few years ago they had a report of child pornography on a computer. When they investigated they found that a married couple had a video of themselves having sex when they were both 16. It was on their computer that they took to a shop to have fixed and the tech found the video. To avoid charges they agreed to be on the offender list for five years.

    When these lists started coming out, there were Federal Block Grants to fund them. To keep the funding, certain statistics had to be turned in. In order to make those numbers look better, the criteria for being on the list kept getting wider and wider. There was a rumor going around that gay men were meeting up at a local State Park. So the State Police got a grant for a sting operation to bust this up. The first rumor said that they were meeting in the Park’s restrooms, so they closed them. Then it was that they were meeting in the woods so they had a stakeout in the woods. They didn’t make any arrests. So to justify their funding they started citing hikers and fishermen for “indecent exposure”. The reason for the “indecent exposure” was because of them going into the woods to take a piss because the restrooms were closed. Wouldn’t you know it “indecent exposure” met the expanded criteria for the sex offenders list.

  21. Yeah, especially this year when they’re all staying inside playing back “Cuties” in slow motion.

    This comment not approved by Silicon Valley brain slugs. Or NAMBLA.

    1. It’s not very libertarian of me, but I’d sleep better at night if everyone involved with “Cuties” were forcibly defenstrated from the top floor of the Freedom Tower. THAT is unquestionably child abuse.

Please to post comments