Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Highly mobile sex offenders

Summer intern Kyle Heidtbrink finished up his work on his second project—a couple of research efforts concerning sex offenders. He’ll be off to the Narcotics Unit soon. His earlier work focused on movement of sex offenders into Lincoln and into Nebraska. His most recent project was to research movement of sex offenders within the City.

Kyle found that a third of the high risk registered sex offenders in Lincoln are exceptionally mobile. These highly-mobile offenders have moved between 5 and 22 times in the past five years. Those are only the moves we know about. There are several others who are “transient”, meaning they have no current address at all.


This is probably no revelation to those who work with this population regularly—police officers, parole officers, clinical psychologists and counselors. On the other hand, ordinary citizens, legislators, and others may be surprised at the mobility. For the heavy hitters, with 15, 16, 19, or 22 moves, this means that residency is a few weeks at best.

Here are some of the difficulties this creates: Even with the State Patrol's public sex offender registry and web mapping applications, it’s tough for citizens to know where these offenders are at any given point in time—their address is a moving target. The State Patrol and the local police will have a hard time keeping tabs on them. It may be difficult for these offenders to follow the law that requires reporting address changes in person at the Sheriff’s Office within five days, simply because they are moving with such great frequency.

I’m not sure that Kyle’s findings point towards any specific policy changes or recommendations, rather this project provides some good background information on the dynamics involved in sex offender registration and tracking. More than anything, it gives Kyle some valuable experience in both performing the GIS analysis and thinking about the ramifications of the phenomenon he has illuminated.

7 comments:

Mr. Wilson said...

Do you have the ability to run any analyses of the location of a sex crime in comparison to the offender's address at the time? Phrased another way, how close to home are sex offenders offending? How do the data change when you remove offenses committed by family members?

Tom Casady said...

We certainly have the capability, but it would require some time and effort. It would make a nice project for some graduate student, but he or she would need a larger sample size than the City of Lincoln would provide. There are so few stranger rapes that we wouldn't be able to produce a large enough sample for statistically significant findings. I think the details would show that the majority of the level 3 registered sex offenders perpetrated on a family or household member.

There is a large and growing literature of the relationship between offender anchor points (homes, friends, employment, favorite watering hole, etc.) and the location of crimes they commit. Google "journey to crime."

Anonymous said...

What a great feather in Kyles cap to obtain this type of experience. It sounds like there will be great opportunities when his formal learning is done and he heads out into the world.

Anonymous said...

Actually, we at www.SOhopeful.org already have a plethora of research available on offender movements, as well as a compilation of laws from around the country with regard to sex offender registration, monitoring, and compliance. While we applaud the efforts of Mr. Heidtbrink with his excellent analysis, he is actually confirming much of what is wrong with registration in general: It leads more to public perception and fear than to actual protection of children and society as a whole.

While many people look at us as a "sex offender civil rights organization", we have been way ahead of the curve in predicting fallout from the various residency restrictions around the country.

I'm sure if Mr. Heidtbrink would have interviewed several of the RSO's, he would have found out that most of the transiency was due to the fact that offenders are generally not encouraged to find stable housing, employment, and treatment, which are KEY ELEMENTS to prevent recidivism. Your unique position as law enforcement officials, using your rational methods and experiences, can probably attest to it more often than not. But politicians are a different animal, they look at VOTES, not RESULTS, of their legislation.

And the KEY ELEMENT is this: does the Registry, and in extension Residency restrictions and other controls, make the community safer? Add to the mix the amount of production your officers have to put into monitoring individuals, city attorneys have to put into defending such ordinances, etc.

If offenders are so dangerous, they should be adjudged to longer sentences in the first place. And therein lies a problem, to be honest. While over 90% of the sex offenders were involved in non-violent (although in many cases, statutory) incidents, in which case their involvement was NOT predatorial but offensive nonetheless, it makes no sense to monitor them for decades when there is OTHER crime that is much more dangerous to the community, such as gangs, drug involvement, and yes, child abuse, which hurts or kills FAR MORE children than predation. No registry for those folks, though.

I know I've been long-winded, but wanted to provide you with an opportunity to peruse our research and experiences. I sincerely hope most people start to become rational about the issue. Our children's safety depends on it.

Please contact SOhopeful.org for more information. Thanks for allowing my post.

Anonymous said...

some agencies have a couple sex offenders assigned to an officer. During their shift, once a month, the officer checks on the sex offender to see if they are still living at that address.

Anonymous said...

Some agencies have enough officers to do things like that....

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the city of Lincoln has become the "City of Preference" for these offenders. I understand that LPD does not have the time or officers to stay on top of every offender in our city. We only have to look at the current warrants list to prove this.

Something to think about for relieving LPD and authorities as to the location of offenders would be a form of automatic position reporting system. LPD has become very technology advanced that the system could actually work with the radio system they use.

Expence you say, let the offenders pay for it. If they cant, dont let them out! I would rather pay my taxes to keep them on the inside anyway!

Ed