We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

Familiarity with and USES of Sex Offender Registries

June 2013:

The Texas sex offender registry began in 1991 to provide information about sex offenders living and working in communities throughout the state. Texas has the second largest state registry with over 72,600 active offenders (V. Castilleja, personal communication, October 18, 2012). The registry notifies the public of the presence of convicted sex offenders, and with that information, citizens can take protective action to reduce the likelihood of future sex crimes. In order for the system to prevent sex crimes, residents must access the registry and take preventative measures if offenders are present in their neighborhoods.

There are relatively few studies to date that have explored familiarity with and use of sex offender registries and the information available in them, and there are no known studies specific to the Texas registry. The existing research has indicated that few people access the registry (Anderson and Sample, 2008), individuals who have been victims of sex crimes are more likely to utilize the registry (Kernsmith et al., 2009), but few individuals took preventative action after accessing the registry (Anderson and Sample, 2008).

This report presents results from a project designed to expand on the previous research on sex offender registries by exploring whether individuals access registries and whether they take protective action as a result of the information they have found.

An online survey was developed to address these research questions. Recruitment emails were sent to undergraduate students at a Texas university. Students were asked to voluntarily participate in a brief survey about their opinions about sex offenders, the requirement that they register with local law enforcement, and the different kinds of sexual offenses that are committed. A total of 652 individuals completed the survey. The sample was mostly female (74.8%) and White/non-Hispanic (70.2%). The majority of respondents (62.8%) were between 18 and 23 years of age, and 66.8% were single. Figure 1 displays the demographic characteristics of survey respondents.

Familiarity with and Use of Registry

Nearly three-quarters of the respondents (73.6%) were familiar with sex offender registries, and another 7% were unsure of their familiarity. Respondents’ degree of familiarity with the registry was similar for males and females; although, more White/Non-Hispanic respondents reported being familiar (77.3%) with the registry when compared to other ethnicities, particularly African Americans (60.6%).

Less than half (43.4%) of all respondents surveyed had utilized the registry. However, when respondents’ familiarity with the registry was taken into account, over 59% of respondents who were familiar with the registry had accessed it. ..continued.. by Nicole Wilkes, MPH -and- Leana A. Bouffard, Ph.D.

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