Sex Offender Law and the Geography of Victimization

43 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2014

See all articles by Amanda Y. Agan

Amanda Y. Agan

Rutgers University, Department of Economics

J.J. Prescott

University of Michigan Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2014


Sex offender laws that target recidivism (e.g., community notification and residency restriction regimes) are premised - at least in part - on the idea that sex offender proximity and victimization risk are positively correlated. We examine this relationship by combining past and current address information of registered sex offenders (RSOs) with crime data from Baltimore County, Maryland, to study how crime rates vary across neighborhoods with different concentrations of resident RSOs. Contrary to the assumptions of policymakers and the public, we find that, all else equal, reported sex offense victimization risk is generally (although not uniformly) lower in neighborhoods where more RSOs live. To further probe the relationship between where RSOs live and where sex crime occurs, we consider whether public knowledge of the identity and proximity of RSOs may make offending in those areas more difficult for (or less attractive to) all potential sex offenders. We exploit the fact that Maryland's registry became searchable via the Internet during our sample period to investigate how laws that publicly identify RSOs may change the relationship between the residential concentration of RSOs and neighborhood victimization risk. Surprisingly, for some categories of sex crime, notification appears to increase the relative risk of victimization in neighborhoods with greater concentrations of RSOs.

Suggested Citation

Agan, Amanda Y. and Prescott, J.J., Sex Offender Law and the Geography of Victimization (December 2014). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 11, Issue 4, pp. 786-828, 2014, Available at SSRN: or

Amanda Y. Agan (Contact Author)

Rutgers University, Department of Economics ( email )

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J.J. Prescott

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

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