Sex Offender Count Rises, But How Many of Them Are Dangerous?


The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children says the number of registered sex offenders in the U.S. has risen by nearly a quarter in the last five years, says Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine. The total is 747,408, up from 606,816 in 2006. That was the year when Congress enacted the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (currently up for reauthorization), which imposed new requirements for state sex offender registries and created a national database incorporating information from those registries.

Ernie Allen of the missing children center says registration “is a reasonable measure designed to provide important information to authorities and to help protect the public, particularly children.” His group does not say how many of the 747,408 people listed on sex offender registries are predatory criminals who actually pose a threat to public safety, probably because it does not know, says Sullum, who adds that, “the usefulness even of properly focused registries is debatable, since Justice Department data indicate that almost nine out of 10 sex crimes are committed by people with no records for that kind of offense.”

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