The Topeka Capital-Journal recently published a story about registered sex offenders and compiled a list of such offenders registered in Shawnee County. The newspaper plans to include registered sex offenders in surrounding counties in the coming weeks.
The names and addresses of registered offenders is public information, and it’s good information to have.
However, those who think they and their children are much safer because they have the information should take heed of words from Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, who was a source for The Capital-Journal’s recent story.
The offender registry is a valuable tool, Smith said, but it can provide a false sense of security if someone is using it to determine who is dangerous.
More than 80 percent of children who are molested are molested by a friend or family member, Smith said, adding, “It’s not just the stranger in the park with a trench coat.”
Some studies indicate sex offender registries are of limited value for determining who poses a danger to adults and children. A Justice Department study conducted in 2002 found that the recidivism rate for sex offenders was about 5.3 percent (one in 19). A compilation of other studies conducted for the years 1983 through 2010 found the recidivism rate for sex offenders was about 9 percent, still the lowest for all categories of crime.
Certainly, there are serial rapists and pedophiles among us but they will never show up on a sex offender registry because, once caught, it’s unlikely they will ever get out of prison.
So the registries have value, but there are other dangers out there, including friends and family members. Most people don’t like to think their friends and family members would prey on children, but in this case, the statistics don’t lie.
Parents should communicate with their children and teach them what is appropriate contact and what isn’t and encourage them to indicate when someone is crossing the line. Children also should be instructed to report inappropriate behavior to their parents or another authority figure.
Parents also should be alert to signs their child is being molested. These include a child being reluctant to visit a specific place or person or not wanting to participate in an activity he or she previously enjoyed, has nightmares or mood swings and seems withdrawn and has unexplained marks on his or her body or mysterious injuries.
People should check the sex offender registry, but they also should take steps to protect themselves from predators who have never been caught and convicted or the person, perhaps a friend or family member, taking that first step across the line.