Study finds fewer sex offenders missing, despite U.S. Marshals Service claims

Levenson, a Lynn professor, co-authored study on sex offenders

Published May. 31, 2011

Jill Levenson, B.A., M.S.W., Ph.D.Jill Levenson, associate professor of psychology and human services in Lynn University’s College of Liberal Education, has co-authored a new study which provides a snapshot of the nation's registered sex offender population. The study, “Who are the people in your neighborhood? A descriptive analysis of individuals on public sex offender registries,” was published this month in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.

The study analyzed data downloaded directly from online sex offender registries and included 445,127 individual sex offenders. Approximately 275,000 additional sex offenders are not listed on public registries because they have been assessed by their state to pose a low risk for reoffending.

The most notable finding is that despite claims by the U.S. Marshals Service that 100,000 sex offenders are missing, the authors were able to identify only about 4%, or 17,688, whose addresses could not be verified. A total of 5,349 offenders were officially listed as absconded, 1,264 were listed as missing or unable to be located, and 4,152 were listed as having failed to comply with registration requirements. An additional 6,923 were reported to be homeless or transient.

"We found no evidence to support the frequently repeated statistic that 100,000 (or about 14%) of the nation's sex offenders are missing or unaccounted for," Levenson said.

In December 2010, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that there were 728,435 registered sex offenders in the U.S.  Levenson conducted the study with criminologists Alissa Ackerman from University of Washington Tacoma, Andrew Harris from University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Kristen Zgoba from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

More on Levenson:

Jill Levenson is an associate professor of human service at Lynn University and a licensed clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience treating sexual abuse victims, survivors, perpetrators and non-offending parents. Her academic focus is on sexual abuse and how offenders are categorized and treated.

Currently, Levenson, Lynn University and Debra Ainbinder, an associate professor of psychology at Lynn, are partnering with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) on a community safety implementation project to help prevent sexual assault.

Levenson is a nationally known expert on sexual violence and has become a respected authority on, among other things, laws aimed at protecting children while punishing, tracking and rehabilitating sex offenders. She has been quoted in national publications including the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, among others. She has published over 60 articles about sex crime policy and offender treatment.