What’s It Cost to Live Near a Sex Offender?

About four percent of the value of your home. That’s what the economists Leigh Linden and Jonah Rockoff (both of Columbia University) concluded in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper called “There Goes the Neighborhood? Estimates of the Impact of Crime Risk on Property Values From Megan’s Law.” Here’s how the NBER Digest summarizes their findings:

They combine data from the housing market with data from the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry to find that when a sex offender moves into a neighborhood, houses within a one-tenth mile area around the sex offender’s home fall by 4 percent on average (about $5,500), while those further away show no decline in value. “These results suggest that individuals have a significant distaste for living in close proximity to a known sex offender,” the authors conclude.

I am well known for admiring economists, but even I have to admit that that last sentence is a little, um … obvious? More significantly, however: I wonder when, or if, homesellers will be routinely required to notify potential buyers of a nearby sex offender. Linden and Rockoff note that is already the case in some states, but I am guessing it is rare. On the other hand, it’s already pretty easy to search for registered sex offenders in a given neighborhood, so maybe this is just one more element of home-shopping that people will become accustomed to. Finally, I can imagine that if the Linden-Rockoff findings become common knowledge, it will make people scream even louder about having a registered sex offender placed in their neighborhoods.


Skuds

There is another interesting possibility about this. If a person found out that a sex offender was living near them, but not on the register their natural inclination would be to notify whoever keeps the register up-to-date.

Is there now a slight incentive for homeowners to not make that notification? In most cases the notification would still be made, but if a homeowner was thinking about moving...

I seem to recall that the book dealt largely with incentives and here is a good example. TomHynes makes a good point, but for such an incentive to start having an effect it is enough for people to believe that there is a 5% effect whether its true or not. When that is not sensational enough, the media might start talking about 10%...

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julietD

I feel the need to speak only because my offender, my mother's second and ex-husband, was not required to register in his neighborhood as he was not convicted because mine was his first reported offense after years of his abuse, he was an upstanding citizen in the community, and he had a good lawyer.

Last year, in his new community where my mother still resides with her current husband, the deacon of the offender's church contacted my mother to ask her questions about his background because the offender was in such a position as to be a summer camp counselor to underage children.

The offender was, of course, denied any and all contact with the church's youth and he lost his front row seat in the church which he had established with his new family after 10 years.

This deacon was shocked there was no information on file about this offender even though, years ago prior to his current marriage I personally contacted the authorities in his community to alert them to his history. As far as they were concerned there was nothing they could do until a report hit their desk and since he had no prior conviction it was left in God's hands.

Participation in your children's lives and establishing trust in communication within the home and within your communities social circle is the best preventative measure any family can adopt, but you never really know who your neighbors are. There was no indication outside my home of origin to suggest there was anything but a perfect family behind it's doors.

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Graceswisdom

This is an interesting conversation, but not particularly realistic.

Here are some interesting observations:

1. Sex offense accusations rise during national or regional coverage of someone arraigned or convicted of a sex offense.

2. Most sex offenses occur within a family or relative circle. Particularly within step families. Also the person accused of a sex offense have themselves been victimized at some point in their lives.

3. With counseling and treatment the recidivism rates for someone convicted of a sex offense is between 3.3 to 10% ( 10% if the offense is outside of a family setting).

4. Compare this statistic with 50% for crimes such as drug dealing, robbery, assault and theft. A family member is more than likely to be approached for a drug deal, than a sex offense.

5. Political conversations mention sex offenders more often during election campaigns than during any other time of year.

6. Recidivism is less likely if the person is able to rebuild their lives with a stable job and a family life.

This does not dispute that socio and psychopaths exist (2-3% of the entire population), but rather the majority of offenders will never offend again.

In a study where I was the media co-researcher we focused on the effects of Megan's and other similar laws on the family members of those who must register because of their offense, we found the following to be true.

1. The spouse (usually male) lost their job and had difficulty finding another job.
2. If the family rented, they would lose their home in 6 months.
3. If the family owned their home they would be harassed to sell within 1 year.
4. Children of the family are harassed or must switch schools up to 4 times in one year.
5. If the wife's (usually) employer found out about the husband's conviction they would lose their job.
6. On the extreme there is a 2-3% chance a usually non-criminal citizen will commit the crime of assault or murder on someone convicted of a sex offense.

The immediate cost may be a reduction of your home value. The more far reaching cost is the flip side of victimization. Families are driven into poverty, into poor and dangerous sections of cities, similar to Jewish ghettos of World War II. Public registries prevent persons from obtaining decent housing and good jobs. Many persons with this conviction find prohibitive regulations from seeking a college degree or going to trade school, though studies show a direction positive correlation with higher education and reductions in criminal behavior.
The real problem in the United States is that 1 in 32 persons are either in prison, in jail or on probation (Dept. of Justice, 2007). They can not rebuild their lives when they return to society (which 97% of them return).

Why should you care? Because a society with a large permanent subclass is not a safe society.
In other words the quality of your life depends on the quality of your neighbors (however close or far away they are in your city).

We are asking the wrong questions in our society.
We need to ask why there are sex offenses, why is there a sudden increase in juvenile offenses and if registration itself does any good or does it give a false sense of safety while maintaining a "license to hate". We need to work on prevention and education. We need to teach boys and girls to respect each other, to eliminate sexism from our society to create communities where we know and interact with our neighbors and to bring those who have paid their debt to society back into the community in a healthy and safe manner.

If we choose to continue the paranoia and fear the real costs to our neighbors and society will be a dangerous disruption to our safety and democratic way of life.

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frozen

graces you may be right but i would put you in my position, 4 children (1 boy, 3 girls ages 10 to 17) and a kid filled private neighborhood. guess who moved in directly across the street with the elderly homeowner? a convicted sex offender, age 29, the homeowner's nephew. i guess i can no longer leave my kids at home alone after school if i have to go out, nor can they run free once spring arrives.

rich

I was convicted of downloading three illegal images almost 8 years ago. Since I've had to register I've lost my family, my career, etc. I dont expect pity from anyone. Truth is all I expect now is the hate I read and watch everyday. You cant imagine the absolute loneliness that comes with being labeled a creep, a monster, etc. This country has legistlated a despised subclass into existence and it is likely they will legistlate it out of existence one way or another, which is why I am moving far away before this happens. For what its worth I will mention that my journey has been truly enlightening but I wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy.

-- your neighbor