Fourteen states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Tennessee) have enacted buffer zones which prohibit sex offenders from residing within close proximity to a school, park, day care center, or school bus stop. The least restrictive distance requirement is in Illinois (500 feet), but most common are 1,000 to 2,000 foot boundaries.
There is no research to support the idea that residence restrictions prevent repeat sex crimes.
In Colorado it was found that molesters who reoffended while on probation were randomly scattered throughout the geographical area, and did not seem to live closer than non-recidivists to schools or child care centers (Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2004).
In Minnesota, sex offenders' proximity to schools or parks was not a factor in recidivism, nor did it impact community safety (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2003). In fact, the opposite was found to be true -- a sex offender was more likely to travel to another neighborhood in which he could seek victims without being recognized.
Public safety and child protection are understandably the primary considerations when sex offender restrictions are imposed. Advocates of residence restrictions believe that such laws will diminish the likelihood that sex offenders will come in contact with children whom they might potentially victimize. However, concerns have been raised that such mandates might exacerbate the shortage of housing options for sex offenders and force them to move to rural areas where they would be increasingly isolated with few employment and treatment options (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 2003). The dispersal of parks and schools may lead to overlapping restriction zones, making it essentially impossible for sex offenders in some cities to find suitable housing. In some urban areas, offenders might be forced to cluster in high-crime...