America's Sex Offender Registries

May 26, 2015
Tags

A Deceitfully Comforting Illusion

In the US today, there are nearly 800,000 registered sex offenders. As part of the registration process, each sex offender is required to report their physical address to a local police department (the exact process varies from state to state). This is intended to empower the public to be able to identify where these offenders live and if one of them lives near you. Having this information, you are supposed to be able to better protect your loved ones and yourself.

But what if the information that the sex offender gives the police isn't accurate? Surely someone is verifying that information is accurate.

Sex Offender Infographic

Testing the Registries

Under the federal Megan's Law, each state is obligated to maintain a publicly accessible database of registered sex offenders. Depending on the state, a search of their database will tell you where the sex offender lives and what their conviction was. Most states will report the address of the sex offender. Some states (Arkansas, DC, Minnesota, Washington) only report which city block the offender lives on. Some (Vermont and Maine) only report which city the offender lives in. But all states are supposed to be keeping track of these offenders.

As a member of the public, it would make sense that if you wanted to know the address of a sex offender, you could trust the accuracy of the address listed in the sex offender registry. After all, that's how Megan's Law is supposed to protect us.

Smarty decided to put this assumption to the test and verify each address in each state's sex offender registry.1

We decided to verify the addresses of registered sex offenders who are actually living in the community. People whose records were labeled "deceased" or "incarcerated" are clearly not in the community, so we removed all of those records from our list.

Next, we ran that reduced list through the Smarty address verification service to see which addresses were real, verifiable addresses according to the US Postal Service. The results we found are troubling.

Illusion Shattered

On average, over 14% of the addresses listed for sex offenders in each state's registry are bad. Alaska has the worst score, with 39.5% of its addresses not passing USPS address verification. Florida has the best score, with only 5.5% of their addresses being bad.

Overall, of the approximately 800,000 registered sex offenders in the nation around 112,000 of them are registered under bad addresses.

WHO'S ACTUALLY BEING PROTECTED?

Our investigation provided far more questions than it did answers. Most of those questions are unsettling at best.

Why are so many states registering large numbers of sex offenders under bad addresses? Why are states not validating the address at the time that the sex offender provides it?

Validating an address is a fairly simple process using any number of address validation services. If addresses that are not real are being accepted from sex offenders, how much is the sex offender registry system actually protecting the public?

A HOUSE OF STRAW?

Many of us are familiar with the story of the three little pigs. In this classic tale, each of the three pigs construct a house to protect themselves from a danger in their world. Each builds a home out of different materials. Two of the pigs do a quick job with cheap materials and yet still believe that their home is providing them with safety and security. But this turns out only to be a comforting illusion and fails to provide the protection needed. We all know what happens to most of the pigs.

In the same way, many of us are trusting that the sex offender registries of our nation are providing us with accurate and useful information, and consequently providing us with real safety and protection. In reality, they may simply be deceiving us into false sense of security. With up to a third of convicted sex offenders committing additional sex crimes2, the protection provided by the nation's registries, seems to be little more than a house of straw.


1 We obviously could not verify the data for those states that only tell you which block the person lives on, or the city they live in.

2 https://www.parentsformeganslaw.org/statistics-offenders/

Subscribe to our blog!
Learn more about RSS feeds here.
Subscribe Now
Get our latest eBook!
Evaluating a geocoding tool?
Get the buyer's guide
smarty logo
Download now
Read our recent posts
Rising Parcel Shipping Costs in 2022: How to Cut Your Shipping Expenses
Arrow Icon
Parcel shipping costs have been rising since 2020. We’ve all seen inflation on the consumer end, whether we’re checking out online or paying at the gas pump. And skyrocketing freight rates have made headlines. Today, we’re going to focus on the impact of the increasing cost of shipping on your business and what you can do about it. But don’t lose hope—while we’re going to explore climbing shipment costs in this article, we’ll also chat about what your business can do to make shipping more efficient.
How to Clean Address Data For the Holiday Rush
Arrow Icon
It’s November, and online shopping is ramping up to its climactic end-of-year blitz. www. blackfriday. com estimates that between Thanksgiving and Black Friday of this year, consumers will spend approximately $13 billion 1. That’s great news for your business. But if you don’t have the right tools in place to help you meet that demand, you might be left wishing you had better prepare. Staffing may be one issue for many businesses. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the wholesale and retail trade industry has experienced the second-highest quit rate of all industries since November 20202.
Helpful Hints to Authenticating Your APIs
Arrow Icon
We brought out the big guns in the way of our Development Team Lead, Kent Gividen, in a webinar all about authenticating your APIs. He went over some of his most useful tips and tricks that he uses to ensure APIs are authenticated. Was it helpful? You betcha. You wanna get the sparknotes? Read on. Common and Not-So-Common APIs to Know About Kent began by outlining the APIs that he has run into the most in his years as a developer. Some of them he dug into a little deeper than others, but these are all useful to be aware of.

The leader in location data intelligence

Ready to get started?