Academic journal article URISA Journal

Where Are They? A Spatial Inquiry of Sex Offenders in Brazos County

Academic journal article URISA Journal

Where Are They? A Spatial Inquiry of Sex Offenders in Brazos County

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Several studies in the past decade have analyzed sexual abuse on males and females under the age of 18 in the United States (Tjaden and Thoennes 1998, Greenfield 1997). Finkelhor (1994) informed that one in five females and one in seven males are sexually abused by the age of 18. The fear, both personal and altruistic, of becoming a victim of sexual abuse consciously or semiconsciously exists in the community. This fear has been rekindled even more with the recent unfortunate events of sex-related crimes throughout the nation.

In an attempt to redeem neighborhoods of these mishaps, law-enforcement agencies have regulated various sex offender restriction statutes that can help manage the risk posed by sex offenders. While numerous statutes have been in place for about four decades now, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offenders Registration Program (1) (42 U.S.C. 14071 et seq.) of 1994 reshaped the way law enforcers managed Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) in the United States. This law required convicted sex offenders to register and notify their law administrators of their movement. Information about offenders such as each offender's name, age, gender, height, weight, race, and details of the offense are provided to the state authorities such as the State Department of Public Safety.

After the death of Megan Kanka at the hands of a convicted sex offender living across the street in New Jersey, President Clinton signed an amendment to this law, requiring all states to make the information about pedophiles and rapists available to the general public (Beck and Travis 2004, Engeler 2005). When this law was signed in May of 1996, the local citizenry was and continues to be informed of the whereabouts of sex offenders in their community. This notification system exists in all the states, and makes it mandatory for the offenders to inform the respective state authorities about their movements anywhere in the United States. This information then is made public to notify the communities of the offenders' details. The Jacob Wetterling act sets minimum standards by federal administration for states. Individual states, on the other hand, can impose more stringent requirements on the offenders. In Texas, the Code of Criminal Procedure, SB1054, Article 42.12, Section 13B (Texas Legislature Online, 78th Legislature) mandates the Child Safety Zone (CSZ) for the state of Texas to be "within 1,000 feet of premises such as school, day-care facility, playground, public or private youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade facility, places where children generally gather." Currently, the state of Texas stipulates anywhere from 200 feet to 1,000 feet for this zone, which follows the drug-free zone restrictions used in the state. This study investigates the locations of sex offenders' residences with respect to the CSZ using a standard 1,000-foot buffer (as mandated by the Texas legislature and currently under discussion in the legislature (2)) around the child facilities on proximity to an RSO, area of risk owing to the RSO presence, and how such information can be communicated to the general public.

The movement of RSOs within and between different states with varying restriction laws makes it difficult for the offenders and the supervising authorities to exactly determine the distance between the residences of the offenders and the CSZ. However, current trends in modern technology such as using a geographic information system (GIS) have made it feasible to closely supervise the mobility restrictions of the registered sex offenders. GIS provides a powerful tool to map these locations, efficiently update the data, and frequently check for violators residing in the CSZ. This study uses the current restriction laws stipulated by the Texas legislature to inquire: (1) How many sex offenders reside within the Child Safety Zone (1,000-foot buffer)? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.