Letter to the Editor: Residency Restrictions Won't Keep Kids Safe
By Tracy Velazquez
Ms. Dratz' concerns about having a person on the sex offender registry living near her daycare are understandable, but residency restrictions such as she would like to see enacted have been shown to be counterproductive to improving public safety. This is for several reasons.
First, almost all (97 percent) sexual assaults of young children are caused by family members or acquaintances. This sad fact means that neither residency restrictions nor fences (nor sex offender registries, for that matter) will be effective in preventing victimization of her young customers. Additionally, by forcing people into the outskirts of town, residency restrictions make it difficult for them to access those things that have been shown to be linked to staying crime-free, such as jobs, treatment and social services. Finally, people are more likely to go "underground" if just living someplace and otherwise obeying the law has now become a crime. By increasing the number of people who fail to register, neither Ms. Dratz nor law enforcement will have accurate information on people convicted of a registerable sex offense who have completed their sentences and are living in the community.
In times of limited resources, we need law enforcement focusing on effective ways to keep both our kids and community safe. Enacting and enforcing residency restrictions won't accomplish this. As Lt. McLane said, education is the most important tool to reducing youth sexual victimization, and this needs to include letting children know what to do when the people they know and trust act in ways that are harmful or inappropriate. It's the non-stranger danger that is the more real and present one.
Justice Policy Institute
(formerly from Bozeman)
Posted in JPI in the News