Sunday, October 6, 2013

Real Estate Sales in Virginia: Does Having a Registered Sex Offender Down the Street Matter?

Dear Longwood University Study Authors, 

When your first study on Registered Sex Offenders and the Real Estate market in Virginia came out in 2010 I don’t believe I reached out to you. 

But your recent follow-up study/report Neighborhood Tipping and Sorting Dynamics in Real Estate: Evidence from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry that has been covered in the last few days by WTVR and the Virginian Pilot requires me to contact you. 

The report begins with “Given the potential risk of recidivism”….. as if the rate of risk is extremely high. 

Well the fact is the recidivism rate for Registered Sex Offenders is the second lowest of ALL crimes. 

National U.S. Recidivism (Re-Offense) Rates for Criminal Offenses, 3 years After Release 

1.         Vehicle Thefts, 78.8%*
2.        Selling stolen property, 77.4%*
3.        Burglary, 74%*
4.        Larceny, 74.6%*
5.        Possessing stolen weapons, 70.2%*
6.        Robbery, 70.2%*
7.         Domestic Battery, 41%**
8.        Drugs, 27%*
9.        Rape 2.5%* / Sexual Assault or Rape 5.3%**
10.    Murder 1.2%*

*   - 2002 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics              **   - 2003 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics
** - 2000 Edward Gondolf, Reassault at 30-Months after Batterer Program Intake, 44 Int'l J. of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

Public perception might be of a high re-offense rate but in reality that is false.

You go on to predict “clustering” and “tipping” of neighborhoods in Virginia. 

That happens in other states because of expansive residency restrictions that include numerous locations, large diameters and cities and counties imposing their own restrictions in an attempt to out-do the neighboring city/county to chase the Registered Sex Offenders out of their area. “Pocket-parks” occur in states like Texas, Florida and California, not in Virginia. In those  states that have allowed such expansive inclusions in residency restrictions they have created a large homeless population of Registered Sex Offenders which then leads to untraceable offenders and new crimes being committed out of desperation to survive. 

Whereas a Registered Offender with a residence and a job is a compliant/registered offender who will not re-offend. After all the original reason for the registry was to know where the offender lives. 

Here in Virginia the residency restrictions are limited to a small number of offenders, the distance is not expansive and the list of locations is limited. For the last 5 years I have opposed numerous proposals at the Virginia General Assembly session attempting to increase these measures and I have done so by delivering facts as opposed to myth. 

Your report/study is titled Neighborhood Tipping and Sorting Dynamics in Real Estate: Evidence from the Virginia Sex Offender Registry but yet you reference North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Illinois 

No two states monitor, register or mange Registered Sex Offenders the same so I don’t see how intermingling information from other states into a Virginia report can produce an accurate summary/conclusion. 

An average of 1,058 new Virginians are added to our Registry every year I did the math from the last 4 years

  • From 12/2008 to 12/2009-            941 additional people added to the Virginia Registry
  • From 12/2009 to 12/2010-      1,385 additional people added to the Virginia Registry
  • From 12/2010 to 12/2011-       1,040 additional people added to the Virginia Registry
  • From 12/2011 to 12/2012-              867 additional people added to the Virginia Registry
So no matter how you slice it, more RSO’s are moving into neighborhoods because the total number is always increasing and will never decrease. 

The average person reading your study/report will perceive a problem in Virginia when in fact I don’t believe there is an issue. The fact that WTVR and the Virginian Pilot both extracted the word “cluster” from your report to use in the title of their stories for a shock value tells me that their take away is we have a problem in Virginia. 

I can tell you that for the last 6 years my street hasn’t had any homes on the market for an extended timeframe or have any sales taken a hit on the price because of the RSO. 

As an advocate to reform the Virginia Sex Offender Registry for the last 5 years I hear from a very high number of RSO’s, their spouses, their parents, their room-mates and their adult children and I can tell you emphatically an RSO does not look to buy a home in a neighborhood with another RSO. The ONLY time an RSO considers where other RSO’s live is looking for an apartment so that they’ll know they aren’t wasting their time with the lease process which could very well end with verbal abuse from the leaser when they learn the applicant is an RSO.  

Finally you compare Violent to Non-Violent offenses in you theoretical framework. 

In Virginia Non-Violent Offenders have been re-classified twice by the Virginia Legislature arbitrarily, retroactively and without due process. So offenders whose conviction originally classified them as Non-Violent have been increased to Violent so the classification means nothing in regards to their risk and it also skews the numbers in Virginia making it appear that more than 83% of offenders are Violent when in reality it used to be much less. 

While I see the purpose of your study with the knowledge and experience I have with the Virginia Sex Offender Registry and residency restrictions nationwide I feel it is extremely misleading and will just stir up more hate, prejudice and possible banishment across the Commonwealth.  


Mary Devoy  

eAdvocate reminded me that he wrote about this issue back in July 2012 for any readers who are interested in this topic.

I like the question he poses. Does the assessors office reduce the price because there is a Sex Offender nearby? NO!

To read more from eAdvocate on Real Estate Prices and Neighborhood Sex Offenders: