Does sex offender registry serve a purpose?

The Legislature has passed a bill to close a loophole in Oregon's law requiring convicted sex offenders to register with the police. These bills pass easily, for obvious reasons, but does anyone wonder whether they do any good?

This particular measure, HB 3204, requires the registration of offenders who live out of state and are registered there but who temporarily work or are going to school in Oregon.

Assuming the governor signs the bill, which he will, they'll have to sign up in Oregon, too. There are about 50 of them, said Rep. Kim Thatcher, who sponsored the bill.

The question is: Does the registration requirement serve a purpose other than making these offenders jump through additional hoops after serving their time?

The Department of State Police maintains a public website listing those registered sex offenders considered to be predators. Last week, the site said five of them were living within a mile of 600 Lyon St. S.W., the address of the Democrat-Herald.

It was information we had not looked up for years, not since the paper did some stories about the registry. So how useful or important is it?

These are just predatory offenders. Lots of others are registered in the area. The police know where they are if they look up the list, and this may be helpful in the investigation of any new offenses.

But there doesn't seem to have been a significant change in the incidence of sex crimes in Oregon. More and more people are registered as offenders, but the number of sex crimes reported in the state hovers around 6,000 year after year.

The OSP website makes it plain that the names are being furnished in order for people to provide for their own safety. It's illegal to use the list to subject the offenders to any kind of harassment or discrimination.

Judging by a regular perusal of crime reports, most sex offenses seem to be committed not by strangers but by people known to the victim. That makes it hard to see how the registration requirement is all that useful in preventing more crimes.

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