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Preventing Sexual Violence: Can Examination of Offense Location Inform

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2011
8 pages
This study examined locations where sex offenders first come into contact with their victims and whether sex crime locations differ among those who perpetrate offenses against children compared with those who commit offenses against adults; this study also examined actuarial risk scores and recidivism rates among offenders who met victims in child-dense public locations to determine whether these offenders are more at risk of reoffending.
Recently, legislative initiatives to prevent sex-crime recidivism include the passage of child safety zones ( also called loitering zones) that prohibit sex offenders from lingering near places where children congregate. The ability of policies such as these or residence restriction to curb sexual recidivism depends on the empirical reality of sex offender perpetration patterns. In the current study, descriptive analyses based on archival sex offender file review (n = 1,557), revealed that offenders primarily committed their offenses in private residences (67 percent). Relatively few offenders (4.4 percent) contacted their victims in child-dense public locations. Also, offenders who perpetrated crimes against children were more likely to meet victims within a residence, and those who perpetrated crimes against adults were more likely to encounter victims in a more public location (e.g., bar or workplace). Although only 3.7 percent of all offenders in this sample sexually reoffended, those who reoffended were more likely to have met their victim in a child-dense public location than those who did not reoffend. Current sex crime policies that focus only on where offenders live may fail to focus on where offenders go and also may misdirect efforts away from the place where sex crimes most often occur, i.e., in the home. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: June 1, 2011