17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Living Down the Street from a Registered Sex Offender

As I mentioned before, we are looking to buy our first house. I got a lot of great advice on the process on my last post, but one piece of advice I received off-line from chloe, was to check the neighborhood for registered sex offenders which has been made easier with Megan's Law.

I followed this piece of advice immediately with the first house I feel in love with. I got on Family Watchdog. First of all, it was a little sickening to see how many little red boxes littered the map of the entire city. Then, zooming into the actual neighborhood and street, the area was actually pretty clear except for one little red box which happens to be across the street and just three houses down from the house with the For Sale sign. This man was convicted of "lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14".

Would you ever knowingly buy a house down the street from a registered sex offender? What would you do if you found out after you bought the house? Would it make a difference if you found out he was older and married and not some creepy hermit guy living in the back of a duplex? Would it make a difference if you found out it happened 15 years ago and he is terribly embarrassed to the point that he never walks outside his property without his wife just to put everyone at ease? Would it make a difference if the victim was a boy and you only had girls? Or vice versa? Would it make a difference if you talked to the neighbors and found out they have already confronted him about the situation? Would you ever feel okay about living that close? Are there any circumstances that would put you at ease? Or is it just distance that makes a difference? And I can't even get started on all the non-registered sex offenders that probably live in the neighborhood or in the neighborhoods of all the other houses we're looking at. This guy could be the least of my worries.

Just to do a comparison, we decided to look up our old Queens neighborhood on Family Watchdog. The area is surprisingly clear of little colored boxes. Never would have guessed it.


  • The easiest way to avoid registered sex offenders is to live in a high-cost area. People who commit crimes, by and large, do not make very much money, (though of course there are exceptions to this rule).

    Try to avoid buying near apartment communities, b/c sex offenders will be renters more often than buyers.

    I, personally, looked up our house before we bought, and we are satisfied. There are a few within a few miles, but it was the best neighborhood we could afford so we went with it.

    The crime does matter to me, especially if the act was a consensual act, and the offender was, say, 18, and the victim 16. But, if I was that victim's parents I might feel differently.

    Good luck. We have to do all we can to protect our children, and at least we can choose our neighborhoods wisely. Of course many offenders are not registered or have never been convicted, but these websites are helpful nonetheless.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/11/2007 10:35:00 AM  

  • I think the sex offender list is reprehensible. As a society we are continuing to punish people after they have served the time the law proscribed. This is really no different than Jean Valjean's yellow ticket of leave, the ostracizing of a large portion of our society.

    If we truly felt as a society that these individuals have not been punished enough for their crimes, then change the laws to reflect that. But if we tell them that they have been fully punished for their crimes, and that they are welcome back into society, why ostracize them? Why isolate them? Doesn't that push them further away from possibly getting back to regular life?

    Furthermore, most sex offenses happen within a family, or where the individual knows the victim pretty well. Rare are the crimes against those the offender does not know. There is actually a degree of control that they do own over themselves.

    The rest is all based on paranoia and fear. Frankly that's not the kind of life I wish to live.
    posted by Anonymous Dan at 7/11/2007 10:39:00 AM  

  • We have used these sites both times that we bought houses, actually everytime we moved I checked the lists, I like to know if there is anyone that I need to be aware of living nearby.
    I think that it's better to know that they are there than to not know. I think that these lists are great. I get the whole "paid their debt to society" thing, and that some people don't agree with the list, but until they get better, tougher laws for sex offenders I think that the list is very important to help parents be aware of who is living around them.
    posted by Blogger Moddy at 7/11/2007 11:08:00 AM  

  • anon,

    what you say generally looks true on the maps, but I sometimes wonder if it might also me true that higher income people just don't get caught, prosecuted or convicted as often.

    I totally understand where are you coming from. One side of me feels the same way. This man will never be able to get rid of the label and live a completely normal life. And people who know me know that I am far from an alarmist and I am definitely not one to become paranoid. But I don't think you can ignore the information that is available. What you decide to do with the information is another matter. That is why I am brining up all the questions. I do think that too many people would just say "No way, I could never take that chance". To me, it seems a little more complex.

    And while I realize that a majority of offenses occur in families, you also mentioned they rarely occur against those the offender does not know. I hope to become very familiar and even good friends with my neighbors, so I think you do have to make it a consideration. You don't have to be paranoid, but you do have to consider it with the rate of repeat offenders.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 7/11/2007 11:08:00 AM  

  • Carrie, one time Dusty looked up our house when we lived in California and we found out that the son of a friendly couple right across the street was a sex offender. We had met the son several times and had become good friends with the family already. My parents actually talked to the family about it and they were very open about it. Talking about it comforted everyone and created a sense of understanding.

    Now, I wouldn't suggest knocking on the guys door and asking personal questions but I think it would be good to ask surrounding neighbors. They may have good insights to the situation since they have been living there longer. Also, by talking to surroundning neighbors you'll get a better feel for the neighborhood as a whole and might even find that the people next door are creepier than the sex offender across the street.
    posted by Anonymous Mama Mia at 7/11/2007 11:48:00 AM  

  • carrie,

    There is no doubt that we should all be alert. I have a little girl, and you bet I keep the closest eye on the goings on around her.

    I went on that watchdog site and looked at the three registered sex offenders not far from where we live. Because it offered no more information besides what the individual was charged and convicted with, I cannot say much about the particular individuals.
    posted by Anonymous Dan at 7/11/2007 12:18:00 PM  

  • I really don't know how I would let this knowledge impact my decision. I don't think I would automatically rule a house out, but would definitely take it into consideration.

    I do remember when the Megan's Law Website first went online. All my friend's and co-workers checked their neighborhoods out. One of my co-workers at the time was mormon. He was suprised to find an active member from his ward onsite. I guess it caused a stir in the ward and to him and his family. The guy ended up committing suicide a few weeks after the website came online. He left behind a wife and several children.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 7/11/2007 01:17:00 PM  

  • I think it's good to go on-line and see who is a registered sex offender, but too keep in mind that the person may have committed the crime a long time ago and some are not registered or have been caught, so really the site just allows you to stigmatize another human being.
    Things I learned from a Sex offender class I took in College.
    They have often have specific victim types. So a guy that goes after young females is not usually going to go after your sons. Some do offend based on availability, you have to beware of them no matter what.
    Usually it happens within a family or with close friends,if a man befriends your child I would be weary, even if a woman befriends your child be weary. Often the children are also looking for something more, so parental relationships do count for something. If the offender sees that the child is lacking in self esteem they will target that child.
    A sex offender comes in many shapes and sizes. They are not all poor and living in apartments, They can be doctor's and lawyers or a bum off the street.
    I think it might be wise to know who they are but to not the the information run your life. Yes many neighborhoods have them and yes some have rehabilitated and others have not.
    I think the key is to be open with your children and to inform them about what is appropriate behavior and and what is not. Also to never keep secrets, especially if it's an adult asking you to keep secrets.

    We have sex offenders. It's a part of life, so you have to just be careful.

    I'm going to leave a comment of a post I did on my site. I like to keep my site semi private so that's why I'm not linking to it even though it's long.
    posted by Blogger Lacey at 7/11/2007 01:56:00 PM  

  • First I want to separate pedophile from child molester. A pedophile is someone attracted to children. I would compare them to a homosexual. This is their attraction, but just because they are attracted to children does not mean they molest children. A child molester is a person who sexually abuses a child, but they may not be sexually attracted to children, it may be out of opportunity or vengeance. I say this because I feel that pedophiles are mentally imbalanced and it’s just who they are. I don’t agree with homosexuality or pedophilia, but this is more the way a person’s thinks, rather then how they act. I do feel for them because they honestly are attracted to children, but that does not mean I agree or condone their behavior. So a pedophile does not mean they molest children and a molester does not have to be a pedophile.

    That said here are traits of child pedophiles that abuse children. Their are two kinds of child pedophiles, those who seduce the child and those who are predators. The predators are strangers who take and abuse random children. For these there’s not much to do except warn your children about strangers and to let them know to make as big of a scene and run away if possible if someone tries to abduct them. These are the less common of child pedophiles.
    Seducers seduce your children. They are most often married men, though not always, and can be of any age or intelligence, and are often very intelligent. They often try to work with children in the age range of their IVT. They can be doctors, lawyers, teachers, coaches, or neighbors. This of course does not mean any man in these jobs are child predators, but don’t think child predators fit any particular stereotype of being dumb or a social misfit.
    Often they will prey on children who are longing for attention, these are the most susceptible children, but it really doesn’t matter.
    One thing abuser do is groom a child. They give gifts, or money, and befriend the child. If your child has new toys that you didn’t buy, find out who did. If it’s from one particular person and there is no apparent reason, like teachers often give small rewards, but if it’s expensive be suspicious. If the child won’t tell you who the gift is from because it’s a secret they are probably being groomed and possibly have already been molested.
    Secretiveness is the next thing. The abuser will tell the child not to tell anyone of the abuse and to keep it a secret. “It’s our secret game.” Try to communicate with your child that anyone who tell them to keep secrets is not a friend and is someone they should beware of. Remember that the abuse is often enjoyable for the child. They are sexual beings and the pedophile is attracted to this.
    posted by Blogger Lacey at 7/11/2007 01:56:00 PM  

  • Sometimes the pedophile will use negative inducers. Inducers are basically anything to keep the child from telling about the abuse, toys, or possibly threats. Threats are usually not used unless the predator or child is trying to break off the relationship, though they might be used if the child does not want to be abused. Earlier I said a child predator usually likes children of a certain age range. Once they get too old the abuser will break it off. Sometimes the child does not like this because they are used to getting gifts and often the abuse is enjoyable to the child. So the predator will use threats, such as killing a family pet or even member to keep the child quiet.
    We haven’t talked too much about traits that children have if they are being abused, because the class isn’t about that, though I think I’ll try to find a good book which covers that.

    So Here’s a list:

    Traits child predators have:
    1. Around and like children in which they show a higher than normal interest in children. If they’d rather play with your children every time they’re around them and have a tendency to have physical play, they might be a a pedophile or a child molester.
    2. They give gifts and money to groom and induce the child into the abuse.
    3. They are intelligent, they can be in any occupation but can also be found in occupations with children. They are often photographers or have this hobby.
    (My professor told a story of a former cop attending his granddaughters soccer game. The girls wore little skirts with shorts or bloomers underneath. He noticed a gentlemen that seemed to be taking pictures when the girls fell and the skirts came up. He started a conversation with the man and at one point the man said how cute it was when the girls fall and their skirts come up. The photographer had no children there. This is a trait of a child predator, or pedophile because he was taking obscene photos of the girls. Focusing on the genitals or chest area of a child, even clothed, is considered obscene. If you have children in a sport where their are spectators, watch the crowd for someone who is not a parent with no legit reason of being there taking pictures. In this case since the grandfather was a cop he got the license plate and they were able to get warrant and prove that he was collecting children pornography and was taking obscene photos of children.)
    4. They are often male and married. (We haven’t gotten or covered much about women who abuse.)
    5. Predators often have other paraphilias. They might test the water by exposing themselves to a child (exhibitionism) or making obscene jesters or phone calls to the child (scatophilia).
    6. Collect child and adult erotica, or pornography.
    7. Talk to a child like they would a lover or spouse.
    8. Have an ideal age for their victims.

    Of course their are so many other kinds of child abuse, interfamlia, sexually indiscriminate, or those who have sex with children just because they are sexually experimental, and others. I might cover interfamlia on another day, because that is really the only other one that you would see specific traits. The other abuse of children are mostly because of opportunity.

    Truly you can’t protect your children from each kind of predator but beware of men who are overly friendly or helpful. Often the abuser becomes friends with the parents, in which the child knows the abuser and when the abuser has a moment alone with the child, they abuse them. Single moms are especially prey to this.
    Like I said most traits and things are common sense and of course not everyone who has one or two traits will abuse your child. It’s a combination and accumulation of many. I would most be aware of gifts, secrets, and if any adult who only wants the company of your child, an not other adults. Child abusers do enjoy the company of other child abusers though. Some of the other traits you may not be able to observe, unless you accidentally find child porn in their house or car and that is an obvious sign. You can also do background checks, if they’ve been sighted doing exhibitionism to children I would beware, or even if they have tremendously bad credit. This could be a sign of giving gifts to children because they often have multiple victims at once and that can get costly.
    posted by Blogger Lacey at 7/11/2007 01:57:00 PM  

  • I don't think it would effect my decision.
    1- half of convicted sex offenders don't comply with registration. Frankly, those are the half to be more scared of! they're still disregarding law. (that "half" I quote was in the news this year, re: California)

    2- some % of sex offenders have never been caught. some who are caught are never convicted. some who are convicted are not required to register. again, the few on your map are dwarfed in number by all the sex offenders not listed.

    3- nobody sits in their house all day. i don't much care where the guy sleeps at night or spends his weekends- he's got a workplace. he visits his parents house. he's free to go to the store, to wander the mall, to spend the day at a park across town. and likewise, all the registered offenders two towns over could be hanging out at your neighborhood park, if they choose to.

    so, whatever precautions you'd take to teach kids about safety, just keep taking them. wherever you live, these guys are in public life, and they don't come with flashing signs. If your yard is private, and you aren't developing friendship, I don't see how his living nearby increases your risk at all. the hypothetical unregistered not-caught-YET guy is the bigger threat, and he could be around any corner.

    Does that sound negative? i really mean it in a "relax, just find a great house!" kind of way :)
    posted by Blogger cchrissyy at 7/11/2007 02:53:00 PM  

  • You know, reprehensible or not, I have checked out both our houses. It's not the be-all and end-all, but I did want to know. That said, I understand the, um, discomfort with such a list. But I checked it anyway.

    Would I have passed on this house had a predator lived down the block? Not an easy answer- there would have been a lot of things in play in that decision.

    Good luck with your house hunt.
    posted by Blogger tracy m at 7/11/2007 03:37:00 PM  

  • I was pleased to see the majority of the comments for this topic were not hysterical or vindictive. I research this topic often, and there is actually one guy out there who wants to establish sex offender colonies for all registered sex offenders, from the consensual teenagers all the way to the serial rapists.

    That being said, statistics do show that your children are at an extremely low risk of being harmed by the registered sex offender down the street. But they are at a much higher risk of being harmed by adults in your family or the adults you are friendly with, and your children come in contact with.

    I, too, agree with Dan regarding sex offender registries. If the sex offender is so dangerous, keep them locked up. Otherwise, give them the ability to re-integrate back into society. Much of the information regarding the recidivism of sex offenders is misleading and totally wrong. And of course that's why the registries are still going strong - because society believes the re offense rate is extremely high, when it is actually extremely low. Ironically enough, the reoffense rate for those who assault, rob, steal, drive drunk and embezzle are high, and those are the people who pose dangers to you. And they could be living right next door, and you would never know it.
    posted by Anonymous annemarie at 7/11/2007 06:44:00 PM  

  • The biggest problem I see with sex offender registries is that they don't distinguish between repeat offenders, and a 21 year old kid who got drunk and slept with a 16 year old at a kegger.

    Dan, I disagree with you on the repeat offenders. Although the true repeat offenders are usually not registered anyway, they know how to keep under the wire.

    If a grandpa molests his grandsons for a number, then I am all for whatever humiliation he has to suffer until the day he dies.

    If a guy sodomizes a 14 year old girl he picks up on the street, then I say, heck yes, keep him on there forever. How in the world do you determine repentance? It's very very hard to repent of being a pervert.

    I guess the true problem with the registry is that I am not God and I am not the one to make those decisions. Some I would leave on and some I would not. Guess it's a good thing I'm not God.
    posted by Blogger annegb at 7/11/2007 06:55:00 PM  

  • This post gave me the creeps.

    But because of it, I had another talk with my daughters. I need to have one with my son.

    Just pray about it. Simple, yeah, but that's the point.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 7/11/2007 07:27:00 PM  

  • From what I understand, it is not hard to put someone on that list. All that has to happen is that they are accused, not convicted. I have a little girl who is an over-reactor. For example, she got in the way of her uncles goofing around on a family vacation and started to cry saying "Uncle Ryan hit me!" So, I could see how something could be taken out of context. Personally, I don't need a list to tell me to keep an eye on my kids, to make sure I know the family before I let them go play at their house, and to teach my kids that they need to trust their "uh oh" feelings.
    posted by Blogger jlk at 7/12/2007 06:02:00 AM  

  • JLK, all the lists that I am aware of are of convicted sex offenders only.
    posted by Blogger Moddy at 7/12/2007 08:40:00 AM  

  • One thing I am learning from these comments is that I believe we have every right to know what crimes people have committed, (court records ARE public knowledge), but if we are God-like, we should never judge them. Because criminals, sinners, offenders, or however you want to call it, are part of society, we will come in contact with them. I struggle sometimes with not judging those whom I deem committed bigger sins than me. Of course in the eyes of God all sin is sin. However, for me it is harder to forgive when the actions appear more threatening, or have more lasting effects. (And, of course, even with forgiveness I would not willingly leave my child alone with a sex offender).

    It's easier to believe that a list will protect our children, rather than doing all the things necessary to be a vigilant parent.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/12/2007 09:26:00 AM  

  • anonymous, I think that knowing who is on the list is part of being a vigilant parent. Knowing who is on the list alone isn't going to keep my children safe. But if I know who to keep my kids away from, and also talking to my kids about this issue can help keep my child safe.
    And again, I realize that not all predators are on these lists, but hey I'll take what ever info I can get to help me keep my kids safer.
    posted by Blogger Moddy at 7/12/2007 02:44:00 PM  

  • Did it stop us from buying our house? No. Did it stop me from marrying my husband and moving across the US? No.

    I'm already protective of my child. I already watch what happens. Knowing "someone"" is out there doesn't change that. I mean, what about all those who've never been caught, charged, or whatever?

    Plus, one of my husbands best friends is labelled for life. He told us what happened, with his mother there.. and... I must say, it turned my stomach at the ridiculous thing it was. His whole family was there, everyone saw it- no one thought there was a problem, except a neighbor, who was being a busybody.

    Now he's branded for life.

    Now, I wonder, I'm less likely to convict them, but I'll watch over my child forever. Just because of the world as a whole.
    posted by Blogger Frog Thinks at 7/12/2007 07:25:00 PM  

  • After we bought our second house we found out that not only did we live next to a sex offender, but that he was in our ward.

    Due to a job transfer we moved after about a year, but I was grateful that I had additional information to protect my children.

    Our new neighborhood had no registered sex offenders, so I felt safe. After a few weeks of living in the new neighborhood we were at a soccer game and a sex offend lured some of my son's teammates to the bathroom. Luckily, an attentive Grandma had a strange feeling and screamed at the boys to get away. The sex offender ran to his car and the police did not find him.

    The sad fact is that no matter where you live you there will be the dangers of the world and we as parents just need to do our very best to protect them.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/14/2007 08:55:00 AM  

  • As a child of a "sex offender" let me say a few words, if I may.

    They are not all guilty. Some are accused, but not guilty. They find themselves in a tight spot and decide to plea bargain rather than face the possibility of jail time...away from family and leaving them to fend for themselves. This happened to my father.

    They are not all guilty. A child is hard to think of as a liar in such situation, but it happens.

    So to repeat previous advice: Pray. You don't know what his circumstances are/were...
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/14/2007 07:55:00 PM  

  • I appreciate everyone's comments. While this wasn't really a "what should I do post" (the decision was made quite a while ago actually and it doesn't matter now anyway because working through the budget has shown this house to be too expensive for us -- which I am not sure what this means for us based on the comment of the first anonymous). Anyway, while working through it I found the issue to be much more complicated than I had anticipated and I think the range of comments has also shown that to be the case.

    I think it is a compelling thing to think about and discuss - thanks for joining me.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 7/15/2007 08:39:00 PM  

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