City Council to Consider New Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders. Will They Work?

Categories: Crime

Wednesday, when it returns from its month-long July hiatus, the Dallas City Council will be briefed on Mayor Mike Rawlings' proposal for increased limits on where Dallas' registered sex offenders can live.

The city's only current restriction forbids supervised sex offenders -- those on probation or parole -- from living with another supervised sex offender. Rawlings' proposal is short on details, but it would set a distance requirement which supervised and unsupervised sex offenders would have to reside beyond "premises where children commonly gather."

A presentation released in advance of the briefing gives information on restrictions in other cities and states, both in Texas and in the rest of the country. Most cited include radii between 500 and 2,000 feet from things like playgrounds, schools and day-care centers for the distance limits.

The push for the new rules comes on the heels of a May WFAA report that highlighted Dallas' lack of an ordinance to restrict registered sex offenders' movement or where they could live.

"It's a false sense of doing something," Phil Taylor, a licensed professional counselor who has treated registered sex offenders for decades, says. "There are a few guys that will reoffend. The question is, what reduces the likelihood that they will reoffend?"

Study after study shows that the answer is not residency restrictions.

A May 2012 Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior article concludes:

Given the paucity of data suggesting that sex offender residence restrictions prevent recidivism and the growing body of evidence indicating that housing policies increase transience, homelessness, and unemployment, these laws may be contraindicated. The belief that keeping sex offenders far from schools and other child-friendly locations will protect children from sexual abuse appears to be a well-intentioned but flawed premise. The data from this study do not support the widespread enactment of residential restrictions for sexual offenders. The time that police and probation officers spend addressing sex offender housing issues is likely to divert law enforcement resources away from behaviors that truly threaten our communities.

The restrictions often lead to the clustering of sex offenders, such as in the shanty town that developed under a Miami bridge when that city passed its restrictions or the Davenport, Iowa, trailer park that was one of the only areas within city limits that complied with a 2,000-foot exclusion zone.

Given the difficulty of finding a place to live, registered sex offenders can become destabilized or homeless. When that happens, they are less likely to report their whereabouts to the state, increasing the risk to the community.

"Well over 90 percent of these [sex offenses] are committed in the home or by someone known and trusted to the victim," said Mary Sue Molnar, the executive director of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, a group that advocates for reforms in sex offender registration policies.

Those offenses, and other types of recidivism, have been shown to have no relation to the offender's proximity to the areas the type of law proposed by Rawlings would exclude them from.

"It's borne of panic, and it's ineffective and we shouldn't spend our time doing those kind of things," Taylor said. "It's a despised population and very few people are willing to defend the rights of a despised population."

Update: 10:47 a.m.: Sam Merten, the mayor's manager of public affairs and communications, gave Unfair Park a call to emphasize that the mayor does not have a specific proposal in mind, but just wants the council to consider the issue due to the concerns raised by the WFAA report.

"As long as it doesn't put an unfair burden on DPD or anyone else involved, I think it's definitely worth looking into," he says.

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What difference does it make where they LIVE?

As if Pedophiles can't travel, drive, take a bus to areas outside their own neighborhood to molest children?

holmantx topcommenter

"Pedophilia not curable, data show." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, by Amitai Etzioni is a professor of sociology at George Washington University and author of "The Limits of Privacy."

The sad truth is that pedophilia is almost never cured. I spent a year reviewing the data on numerous attempts to treat this illness. I turned to study the matter when civil libertarians demanded the repeal of Megan's Laws, which require notification of communities into which pedophiles are released. Such notifications are said to be justified precisely because pedophiles are much more likely than other criminals to be repeat offenders.

Pedophilia is not a normal sex drive but an obsession, a strong impulse difficult to control. It has been compared with alcoholism, and characterized as "a chronic, progressive condition that can never really be cured."

The fact that pedophiles are rarely cured is reflected in the fact that even if jailed and treated, they continue to act out their impulse. When I studied the matter, I first ran into a puzzle: Studies of recidivism (rearrest or reconviction) of sex offenders show very different results.

Some find that more than half of those released from treatment centers have been convicted again (56 percent, according to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Post Audit Bureau); others find that this is true only for less than 5 percent of those who completed their treatment.

A closer examination showed that the studies that came out with low rates of recidivism included in their definition of sex offenders teenagers who engaged in premarital sex in public spaces and other such acts that are legally an offense in some jurisdictions, but offer no indication of compulsion. Even for studies that show a high rate, the question remained, what about the others? Thus if 56 percent of the "graduates" of treatment facilities in Massachusetts were rearrested for the same offense, were the remaining 44 percent cured?

The puzzle was solved when I came across reoffense data, which sounds similar to rearrest data but is not. Reoffense figures concern how often the same criminal act has been repeated by the same person - whether or not they have been caught.

We know that on average, pedophiles commit 13 abuses before they are caught. We know this because once they are arrested, they admit to the other offenses or other victims come forward.

Hence, my study of Megan's Laws concluded that far from being excessive, these laws are too weak.

Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

2000 ft doesn't stop drug addicts, alcoholics, rapists, theives, etc... Neither will this llipstick on a pig.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Why don't we do the same for burglars and thieves?

Maybe we should make them wear a red letter "P" on their shirt?


Of course, anyone who has any interest in the subject of sex offenders, which I suspect is around 100% of the US population, should have noticed by now that logic and reasoning has no place in this debate--this is an EMOTIONAL issue and emotion always trump logic and reasoning---a main reason for murder, even war. I have read many, many research papers by very prominent university PhDs, clinicians, university researchers and some very prominent law professors and even a few judges. And everyone of them, put forth the same position and that is that residency restrictions are ineffective as a crime fighting tool and only serve to banish, ostrasize, destablize and further punish/persecute a person who has already been punished for his/her crime by having already served prison time. Concomitantly, law professors and some judges have stated that residency laws are unconstitutional, especially when applied to a person who's crime was committed BEFORE the enactment of these laws. It is emotion that drives proponents of residency laws and to them logic and reasoning be damned. In addition, take note that proponents of residency restrictions try very hard to keep a statistic that has been put forth by researchers out of this debate, and that is that 85% of sex crimes against children are done by someone already in the home, someone the child already knows and trusts---why?

everlastingphelps topcommenter

Too many "sex offenders" aren't pedophiles.  (The guy who gets drunk and gets caught peeing in the alley behind a bar isn't a danger to anyone's child.)

Too many pedophiles aren't "sex offenders" (because they've never been caught or plead the charges down.)

Too many who are both don't register.

This is just a bad plan all around.


Hopefully the city council members will see that this proposal is not a good idea. I'll be watching this one.

holmantx topcommenter

The ordinance is DOA.

There are 42 registered sex offenders domiciled at The Bridge ALONE.  17 at the Austin Street Shelter.  There are hundreds in and around downtown at the various public and private shelters and assisted living quarters.

A 2,000 ft. radius around the main library, the DISD magnets downtown, the public parks, the downtown daycare centers, bus stops, and employment centers which offer daycare . . . 

would require the homeless shelters and assisted housing where sex offenders domicile to vacate.

And therein lies the rub.

Unless, of course, the City Council immediate waives or exempts the ordinance for "special" districts like downtown, Deep Ellum, The Cedars and Southside, thereby sealing Downtown's fate as the official repository for homeless metro wide.

The NIMBYs will be all over that, of course.


If a pedophile is still such a risk that we can not abide them living so close to where kids congregate, why is he out of prison?

Also, the umbrella term "sex offender" covers too much ground to be of use anymore.  Everything from pissing on the side of the road to raping babies.  

If a pedos or sex offenders is still a threat after incarceration, increase sentences, introduce other punishments like caning, or just plain make pedophilia a death penalty offense.  I have no problem taking a convicted pedo out back and hanging him from the most convenient tree.  I do have a problem with policritters not keeping them in prison long enough and then passing yet more laws to make up for their previous dereliction of duty.

We are ruled by malicious nincompoops.


Thank you for this common sense article. I only hope that members of the Dallas city council are as like minded as those cited in this article. 


Very good analysis. Dallas, are you listening?


@holmantx The essential problem with Prof Etzioni's analysis is that it conflates pedophile and sex offender. He criticizes sex offender studies that "came out with low rates of recidivism" because they include non-pedophiles in their definition. Well...that's because state law does not designate someone as a sex offender if they are diagnosed as a pedophile. Rather, the net is cast rather broadly, and the term sex offender is essentially meaningless in communicating information about someone's level of dangerousness. It makes little sense then that Prof Etozioni's conclusion is that the laws don't go far enough -- he seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth which, perhaps, is resulting from his own confusion of terms and data. Of course, this commentary is from 2002. Much more recent data belies many of Prof. Etzioni's contentions.

However, let's ignore the accuracy of his contentions and take them at face value for the sake of argument. The question then is this: what does any of that have to do with residency restrictions? 

There is no data to support that residency restrictions have any positive impact on recidivism (though, there *is* data to support the contention that residency restrictions can actually lead to repeat offenses). It makes intuitive sense, too -- just restricting where someone can live does not mean that (a) there will not be children around them or that (b) that they cannot go to where there are children. Such a model also fundamentally misconceives of how sexual offending against children occurs -- it is not through physical proximity but rather social proximity.

These laws are mostly about NIMBY-style feel-good solutions that may do a lot more societal harm than good at the expense of the human and civil rights of an extremely unpopular group of individuals.

There may be serious arguments out there in support of residency restrictions, but this is not one of them. 


@holmantx  Sir, a vast majority of those 770,000+ people on the sex offender registry are NOT pedophiles. As a matter of fact, over 39.6% of all the allegations of sexual assaults reported, the accused are UNDER the age of 18 years old. By no means are those children pedophiles!

Further, statistics are proving that 50-60% of all rape reports are false.

We need to stop the prosecution of our citizens in this country. We need to quit spreading the hysteria created by legislators and the media to gain votes and popularity.

We must protect ALL our children!

Beyond the Registry dot org 


@holmantx The question becomes how do you determine who a pedophile is?  Is it done through legislative laws?  Or by a competent medical psychiatrist or psychologist?

The issue is not whether a person is cured, but rather the behavior is controlled.  

You talk about re-offense rates and treatment and you conclude Megan's Laws are too weak?

First you have to draw a relationship between Megan's Law and a lower re-offense rate.  If you even read one study you would know that a relationship just is not there.

Your problem is not the laws, but how you apply the label.  You barely make a distinction between those that are obviously not pedophiles and those that are, and yet both groups are equally liable to the laws you support so much.

You had better have a good system in detecting who a pedophile is.  Because if you are pasting the label on anyone you want based upon a political consideration your whole system loses credibility.  

Everyone wants to be safe in the community.  There is no such thing as stripping safety for the name of safety.  If you are truly honest with yourself, this is really the issue you can't sidestep.

holmantx topcommenter

@rwsmom @holmantx

This is what is at issue, I agree.

But it's like elsewhere on this board and in dealing with the Left in general.  Just because I have the temerity to assert there is more than one side to the argument does not allow you, madam, to summarily dismiss me for racism.

You are entitled to your opinions, but not your facts only.

Or, to use another analogy, I do not deny climate changes, but that it may not be man-caused, or at the very least able to be influenced by man other than reducing the number of humans which reside on it by half.

holmantx topcommenter

@Rudy101 @holmantx

The discourse I hoisted up was not mine, but a professional in that field (see citation at top of piece).  I put it up because the trend these days (see article post) is to first refute the high recidivism rate then say it's settled science that Peds don't re-offend at high rates (the reason for Megan's Law is unfounded, essentially).  It obviously IS NOT settled science, which is the purpose of my post.

And to ignore, minimize or generally voir dire an expert who disagrees with the Groupthink of the day, is to ignore such a danger at societal peril.

As far as who must wear the Red S, the criteria, like pronography,  I'll know it when I see it.


@holmantx @rwsmom

Well, here's a response for you commandant.  The registry has been pushed and expanded based on too many lies and corruption.  It isn't about protecting children but protecting careers of all these people employed to oppress almost a million people who are not out committing these crimes.  There is too much mold on this block of cheese for it to benefit anyone but the hate and fear mongers who continue to pedal it to the gullible.  The whole thing has to go.  The AWA could only get ratification in 17 states and few others are even close.  Those that did are struggling under successful constitutional challenges because it obviously was never the intent to actually protect children but to bully a large portion of the population for the sake of publicity.  It has to GO.  The sooner the better.


@holmantx No, you don't know when you see it.. that is the whole point.  If you think you do, then you tread only where despots walk.

Human behavior is as complicated as rocket science.  It certainly takes as much education and intelligence to be competent in both fields.

The criteria is not subjective, or should be allowed as l objective as possible. 

Who must wear the red "s"?  Only a court can decide that and only a court can legally make a rationale for doing so.

holmantx topcommenter

@Rudy101 @holmantx

sorry for the levity which escaped you.  

"Only a court can decide that and only a court can legally make a rationale for doing so."

Well, actually, it's us through the Legislative Process then the courts merely interpret as to compliance with the law of the land.  But yeah, it's complicated and we do the best we can to protect not only the individual's rights but weighed against Public Safety.

How's that?


I left the registry. It is applied ex-post facto and without hearing. It does nothing but harm to me and as a whole the registry doesn't protect the community.

Either I get my hearing or you can't force me to follow your laws.

It is called due process. It's the law.

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