Which American states have the most offenders? It’s a valid question that would concern most people. When it comes to sex offenders, you can actually come up with numbers on how many live in a specific state, and even where because of the laws on registration. When a murderer leaves jail, they can go anywhere and slip through the cracks. Sex offenders can’t stay anonymous.
In terms of absolute numbers, California comes up as number 1, with more than 106,000 registered sex offenders, but in a population of about 38 million, the rate drops down among the lowest on the list. The usual measure is given by rates per 100,000, or how many offenders there are per 100,000 people in a given area.
Precise numbers are hard to come by since the registry can change on a daily basis. There are also variations among the states as to what sort of crimes are registered and what information they make available to the public. We’ve gathered up all the info we could. They’re not necessarily in the exact order, but the consensus is that these are the 15 states housing the highest number of offenders per capita.
Minnesota – Home of Land O’Lakes, cold winters, and sex offenders. This state has more than 17,500 registered sex offenders, with a rate between 319 and 326 offenders per 100,000 people, depending on who you ask. According to 2016 FBI statistics, there are 42.5 reported rapes per 100,000 people in the state, for a total of over 2,300 annually. The rate of violent crimes statewide is low compared to the national average, albeit with a spike in Minneapolis. At that, the rate of crime overall has been dropping in the state, reaching its lowest levels in 50 years in 2016. But, violent crime did inch upward of about 1 per cent. According to Minnesota law, once a sex offender has served their time and is to be released into the community, they have to go into rehab therapy for an unspecified length of time, which consists of group and individual therapy. Let’s hope they’re getting what they need to stop the cycle.
Alaska is cold, picturesque, and apparently has a ton of crime. There are just under 3,300 sex offenders in the state, but the low population puts the rate at about 321 per 100,000. According to the FBI, there are just under a stunning 142 rapes reported per 100,000 – compared to California, at just under 35 – and the incidence of violent crime is up there in the stratosphere at just over 804 reports per 100,000, as well. Anchorage is one of the most violent cities in the country with a stunning 873 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people, and the Dillingham region tops that at more than 887. What's up with crime in the deep freeze? Not enough to do? Is it the cold? The lack of sunlight in the winter? We're sure that citizens, as well as local politicians, would love to know the answer.
Everything’s bigger in Texas — so they tell us. While it’s high on the list of most offenders per capita, it’s not actually at the top, with a rate of about 325 sex offenders per 100,000 people. In terms of overall rate, it's actually comparable to Alaska. The rate of reported rapes per 100,000 is 48, and violent crimes overall at over 434. Crime rates are fairly high throughout the state, with spikes in Houston and in the western region of Texas. According to Neighborhood Scout, five cities in Texas made it on the “Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.” list for 2017: Beaumont, Lubbock, Houston, Balch Springs, and Odessa. To top it all off, as in the United States as a whole, the crime rates have actually been dropping over the years. Be careful out there in the Lone Star State.
Mississippi is the birthplace of the Delta Blues. Along with warm weather, the state is home to about 330 sex offenders per 100,000 people. Crime stats seem to go along with that high rate, including just over 280 violent crimes per 100,000. Mississippi is also officially the poorest state in the union, with about 22 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, including more than 31 per cent of children. There are also relatively high rates of unemployment and low rates of post secondary education. Is that why there are so many registered sex offenders there? Wish we knew.
Colorado has legalized marijuana and killer slopes for skiing and snowboarding. It also has about 333 registered sex offenders per 100,000. Along with registered offenders, this state has high rates of violent crime (342.6 per 100,000) and rapes (64.2 per 100,000). While crime rates largely dropped or remained about the same for most of the 30 largest cities in the United States, they actually spiked in Colorado in 2016, rising by about 3.4 per cent. Increases in rape accounted for part of that rise, along with murder, robbery, and car theft. That 3.4 increase is 11 times more than the 0.3 average increase reported across the board, according to he Brennan Center for Justice.
You all knew the Sunshine State was going to end up on this list, didn’t you? The rate of offenders per 100,000 population is 339, but it’s not just the numbers. There are two categories that the state registers— sex offender and sexual predator — and Florida actually has some of the most restrictive legislation concerning where those sex offenders are allowed to live and work. Some individual communities are even more restrictive than the state law. In Miami-Dade County, for example, some offenders are restricted from living or working within 2,500 feet of any school, daycare, park, or playground. The fact is, it's so restrictive, it has led to the creation of entire sub-communities of sex offenders who live together – including one called Pariahville – and more who are homeless. It means that some have slipped right off the radar – which is exactly the point of the registry in the first place.
Memphis, Tennessee has a high rate of both violent and sex crimes, and the city routinely makes the “Most Dangerous US Cities” lists year after year. Maybe it’s not surprising that the state, overall, is home to a high rate of registered offenders. It clocks in at 344 per 100,000. Violent crimes statewide are at just under 633 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Madison County does boast one of the nation's highest violent-crime rates at more than 885 incidents per 100,000 people, and in Haywood County, it's more than 1,016. The number of offenders and violent crime statistics don’t necessarily connect, but together they add up to a poisonous combination. Lately, Tennessee has been making headlines for white supremacist rallies and counter protests. What’s going on in the Volunteer State? Some observers claim it's Tennessee's relatively lax approach to sex offender laws that is to blame for the number of offenders. For example, in Tennessee, sex offenders can actually live with their own biological children, provided those children were not the victims of their offences. In neighboring Alabama, though, all sex offenders are barred from any overnight visits with children under 18.
What comes to mind when you think of Kansas? The quintessential American heartland, as they call it, smack in the middle of the country and full of cows and cornfields. "There's no place like Kansas" is the state's tourism motto, and it's where Dorothy and Toto had to get back to no matter what. It's also home to a fair number of registered sex offenders, as it turns out. The number is about 346 per 100,000. In late October, a judge struck down a state law that restricted offenders’ use of the Internet on constitutional grounds. The federal judge's ruling seems to make the assumption that an offender's right to use Facebook and other social media is protected under free speech laws in the First Amendment. The challenge to the law was launched by a man who had been convicted of possessing child pornography.
The rates for violent crime are actually lower in Wyoming than the national average. So why is it home to so many registered sex offenders? There are about 380 per 100,000, putting it into the top 10 in the country. The state’s laws regarding offenders may be the reason. While many jurisdictions specify that offenders must stay and live more than 2,500 feet away from schools, parks, and anywhere that children tend to be active, in Wyoming, that restriction is limited to only 1,000 feet. And, that restriction is waived if the offender had an established residence near a school prior to July 1, 2010. The restriction is also waived if the offender is themselves a student or – get this – is dropping off or picking up a child as the child's parent or legal guardian. Many states prohibit offenders from living with any child, even their own.
6 South Dakota
South Dakota is known for its the prairies, the Black Hills, and about 412 offenders per 100,000 people. The state has a high rate of violent crimes, and more troubling, that rate has been rising over the last few years. According to FBI stats, it was over 418 reported incidents per 100,000 people, including just under 49 sexual assaults. That bucks the national trend, which has seen violent crime rates fall overall over the last decade. The theory is that gangs and drugs — especially meth — are at the bottom of it, and the city of Sioux Falls has surpassed other cities in the region like Fargo and Omaha when it comes to crime.
Wisconsin is all about cheese, Great Lakes, forests, beer, the Green Bay Packers, and, apparently, a combination of high-violent crime rates and many registered offenders. The crime rate in Milwaukee County is over 997 per 100,000, with the state number being much lower at just of 305. In September 2017, Milwaukee Common Council voted to essentially remove all restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live — with the stipulation that they must return to the community where they committed the offence. It seems like a head scratcher, but the previous law, which had a 2,000 foot radius restriction, meant that offenders could only live with about 115 residences largely in the south end of town. The move comes after a group of registered sex offenders filed a lawsuit earlier in the year claiming that the restriction basically banned them from living in the city altogether. Officials are hoping it doesn’t mean the city will become a dumping ground for offenders.
Michigan has done some work over the last few years to tighten up its tracking of registered offenders. That probably accounts for the fact that there were about 50,000 of them in the state at one time, dropping to just under 43,000 in 2016. It’s still a high rate, though, at between 412 and 433 per 100,000, and there's about 3,350 in Detroit alone. The rate of violent crime is high, at 459 incidents per 100,000 people, and that includes almost 72 reports of rape. Wayne County emerges as another plagued spot, with rates of violent crime at more than 945 incidents per 100,000. Still, it's an improvement from the bad, old days decades ago when Detroit's nickname was "Murder City."
There are about 71,500 people in Wilmington, Delaware, a small city along the Delaware River. There is also one registered sex offender for about every 31 people in the area. It's also been dubbed "Murder Town USA" because of its unusually high rates of violent crime — about five times the national average. Officials point to issues like racism, poverty, guns, and substance abuse as the root causes. Overall, there are about 500 registered offenders per 100,000 people, and more than 508 violent-crime incidents. The tiny state is known for its beaches — too bad that violent crime and offenders are also part of the picture.
Arkansas comes in at second in the nation with a troubling 440 to 545 registered offenders per 100,000 people. Its registry also only lists the names and addresses of offenders — not what crimes they committed. Little Rock comes in as a particularly troubled area, with one of the highest violent-crime rates in the country, and rural areas don’t fare much better, including Pulaski County (about 1,009 per 100,000) and Crittenden County (1,058 per 100,000). Some municipalities in Arkansas have special "Halloween laws" that require high-level sex offenders to shut out their lights between 5:00 pm and 10:30 pm when the kids are out trick or treating and post a notice that there's no candy.
There are anywhere between 675 and over 700 sex offenders for every 100,000 people in Oregon, giving the state the unenviable title of having the most per capita of anywhere in the United States. What's even more troubling is that the Oregon State Police, which is in charge of the registry, admitted in 2016 that it wasn't following many of the federal requirements for sex offender registration. A media report suggested that the overwhelming majority of offenders aren't publicly listed and that thousands among the total of over 27,000 offenders weren't complying with legal requirements at all. Overall violent-crime rates are relatively low, so maybe it’s that lax record keeping that is attracting all those offenders.