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May 13, 2008 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Registered sex offender in the neighborhood, would you move in if you had two kids under the age of six? The house is perfect in a very quiet neighborhood at the end of long mostly dead end road. He was convicted 18 years ago of forcible rape with an 11 yr old boy. He is now married and lives just up the road and I mean "just". I would love to hear rational thoughts for and against. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wherever you live you should assume that person is there anyway. In your case you'll never forget it.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:15 AM on May 13, 2008 [9 favorites]


My first inclination would be to find out what the dynamics of the neighborhood is. Are we talking block parties every weekend and the kids play in the streets or are we talking "I don't even know the last names of half the people who live near me." If you're not thinking that it's going to be a situation where your kids will be interacting at all with this neighbor than I would lean more towards it being ok. This advice being partially based on the fact that most sexual predators will prey on someone they know. If you think you could be put into a situation where your kids will befriend the neighbor (and possibly without you even knowing) than it's a possibility that you need to be able to live with and how that changes the dynamics. Unfair perhaps, but it is what it is.
posted by genial at 8:16 AM on May 13, 2008


Though you must always be cautious, I would think your family is in no more danger in this situation than, say, when your kids are running through the mall in a large city; everywhere you go, you're going to encounter potential bad apples. There are "bad" people everywhere. In this case, you have "the devil you know," which in many ways is better than the devil you don't know. This individual is no doubt aware that he is on the radar. That might actually make him less of a threat than many other folks out there with a criminal past.

I would suggest you start by talking to some other people in the area. Perhaps they've had dealings with him that could provide insight.
posted by jackypaper at 8:16 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


For: There's no guarantee that another, less-perfect house will be without local baddies; this baddie is a known quantity.
For: Your kids aren't going to be left alone with him, or alone *period* for years to come. I'm assuming his crime didn't also involve breaking and entering, although more details might be helpful for you to know. Living near a known, avoided sex offender without contact wouldn't be a dealbreaker for me (parent of one very little kid.)

Against: Chances he's "reformed" or "recovered" are slim to none.
Against: If you're going to be driven crazy by anxiety, rational or otherwise, then the house isn't really perfect.

Are there other neighbors? Neighbors with kids? Perhaps you could discuss this with them before closing. They may have strategies for avoidance.


....aaaaand on preview: what everyone else said.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:20 AM on May 13, 2008


In almost any situation I would advise you to think rationally and avoid knee jerk reactions, but here I would just leave well alone. The stakes are too high. Don't move in if you can reasonably find a home elsewhere.
posted by fire&wings at 8:24 AM on May 13, 2008


Against: Chances he's "reformed" or "recovered" are slim to none.

The fact that he hasn't been re-arrested in 18 years says otherwise.
posted by electroboy at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


How old was he 18 years ago? Was he the same/similar age to the victim? This would (rightfully or wrongfully) affect my thought process.
posted by inigo2 at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2008


Own or rent? Sell your house at a loss? Break your lease?
posted by fixedgear at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2008


Against: Chances he's "reformed" or "recovered" are slim to none.

The fact that he hasn't been re-arrested in 18 years says otherwise.


No, that just means he hasn't been caught doing anything that could get him arrested.
posted by LN at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


1- Contact the police chief or precinct commander and see what they have to say about the guy. You never know what the circumstances of the case actually were. It seems pretty hard to mistake "forcible rape of an 11 year old", but it is possible there are other issues. I mean, if he was 13 at the time makes a big difference than if he was 30.

2- Did they guy just move in, or has he been there for a while? In other words, who was there first. I ask because if he's been there for a while and you never knew about his status, I would be slightly less worried. See what the other neighbors say?

3- This takes more guts than I probably have, but you might just talk to the guy in private. Presumably, if he's in a nice neighborhood with a wife, he must have gotten his act together in some manner. Especially if you have had friendly interactions with him before. Do not "ambush" him in the driveway with everyone around and lay right into it, just say "hey Bob, do you have a minute? Can we talk in private somewhere?" That shows him respect and sort of gives you both a little time to mentally prepare for an uncomfortable conversation. Then, just lay it out. "Listen, I stumbled across your name on the registry. Is this you? Should I be worried?"

Maybe it's not him. Maybe the real offender just found a guy with the same name and registered with your neighbor's address. Maybe he gets embarrassed and contrite and convinces you that he is reformed or something like that. Your conversation with the police probably would confirm or deny this. If he gets shifty and weird, I would be concerned. Either way, you might have to say something like "OK, Bob, I understand. You paid for your crime and I can give you the benefit of the doubt. I'm sorry I have to say this, but as a parent, I have to: if you touch my kids I might have to kill you. Just keep that in mind." You aren't threatening him, just warning him that your kids aren't targets.

4- Do not give the kids the "stay away from Mr. Wilson!" speech, it'll scare them more than it will help. Just impress upon them what the rules are about going into neighbors' houses and cars

The downside of all of this is that you might start a neighborhood war and/or lynch-mob if nobody knew about him before.
posted by gjc at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


In almost any situation I would advise you to think rationally and avoid knee jerk reactions, but here I would just leave well alone. The stakes are too high. Don't move in if you can reasonably find a home elsewhere.

Exactly. Whether it's safe or not, if it's going to keep you up at night, then that's reason enough to keep looking elsewhere.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2008


The fact that he hasn't been re-arrested in 18 years says otherwise.

I imagine and would hope that some (large) portion of that 18 years was spent behind bars.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:38 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the two years I've been living in this apartment, I've gotten three letters from the police about registered sex offenders in my neighborhood. It really, really bothered me at first, because I have a young child. In the end though, I figured that if I'm going to live near sex offenders, I guess I'd rather live near the ones who have to regularly check in with the police than near those who haven't been caught yet.
posted by Ruki at 8:39 AM on May 13, 2008


god only knows what "deviant" behavior the rest of your unknown neighbors engage in that hasn't been publicly announced. If you look at the Meghan's Law website for any neighborhood in California, you'll find that there's hardly ANY place to live that doesn't have a sexual predator within walking distance. 18 years ago is a long time and at least you have some idea of what to look out for.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:43 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


First of all, there's nothing to say that any other house you buy won't have unregistered (ie, not convicted) sex offenders right next door. Second of all, there's also nothing to say that when you buy another house in another neighbourhood, a registered or unregistered offender won't move in a week or a year later.

The registry simply serves to increase your awareness of a problem that is there regardless of whether you're aware of it or not. The presence of sex offenders is not a great reason to buy or not buy a house in a particular location. Seriously, pedophiles are pretty much everywhere. Trying to simply avoid them isn't really a great tactic for long term comfort and security.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:50 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


As people above have said, try to find out more about the circumstances of the crime that got this guy registered as a sex offender. If this was a random, B&E kidnapping and assault, that's maybe something to be concerned about. However, that's almost certainly not the case.

As is oft-quoted, only 6% of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by a non-relative. In the vast majority of those cases, the abuser is stil well known and trusted by the family. The chance of a random neighbour, even a registered sex offender, going after your kids is very slim.
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


As a parent, I think a lot about this.

Yes, I would have no second thoughts about moving into this house.

There are "sex offenders" and pedophiles in every neighborhood, every city and town in America. The biggest risk to your child is not the people who are on the registry, but the people who are not. Statistically, your child is far, far more likely to be "molested" (god, how I hate that word) by someone close to or related to the child -- a parent, grandparent, uncle, cousin, or close family friend -- than by a guy down the street. The best way to protect your children from them is not to run and hide, its to start now in educating your child on how to protect his/herself.

My son is 22 months old. Even now, we have a rule - no one is allowed to remove his diaper without asking him (and getting his consent) first. As he gets older, we'll work on other things - private parts are private, get an adult, don't go into stranger's houses or cars, I'll always believe you, etc - so that he is able to protect himself to the best of his ability.

Buy the house. Educate your children. Don't live in fear.
posted by anastasiav at 8:55 AM on May 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think that if you can avoid having your children live up the road from a violent child rapist, you should. Um, period.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 8:58 AM on May 13, 2008


3- This takes more guts than I probably have, but you might just talk to the guy in private. Presumably, if he's in a nice neighborhood with a wife, he must have gotten his act together in some manner. Especially if you have had friendly interactions with him before. Do not "ambush" him in the driveway with everyone around and lay right into it, just say "hey Bob, do you have a minute? Can we talk in private somewhere?" That shows him respect and sort of gives you both a little time to mentally prepare for an uncomfortable conversation. Then, just lay it out. "Listen, I stumbled across your name on the registry. Is this you? Should I be worried?"

I dont agree with this approach, would you like it if somebody brought up something from 18 years ago. Furthermore, even if this guy could relapse, chances are your kids are not a target until you mention to him....Hey bob, Should I be worried?..Bob will most likely say no (why would he admit it in the first place?) and if he never was thinking about your kids in the first place....now he will.....and if he was thinking about them...I'm not sure how much having a friendly conversation about his intentions would help?

My 2 cents, if this keeps you up at night dont move in.....but the chances of your kids getting into that type of trouble will not change by going some where else as I am sure (from the experiences of various friends) that a lot of those guys get away with some of those things and are not in any list for you to check.
posted by The1andonly at 8:59 AM on May 13, 2008


I've stopped looking at the maps of my city that show me where all the sex offenders live. I don't have kids, but I am female, and I got caught up in "Omygod, a convicted rapist lives 3 blocks/around the corner/up the hill from me!" Then I realized that having this knowledge wasn't actually going to make me change my behavior - I'm already careful and aware if I'm out by myself and so on. So I quit looking at the maps. They were feeding my anxiety without giving me any actual useful knowledge.

As others have said, if you're going to be in a panic sweat over this guy if you move into this house, then don't. But anywhere you choose to live where there are people will have some bad folks around. Even if you didn't live down the street from a known sex offender, you'd still teach your kids about how to be safe, right? Keep an eye on them if they're playing outdoors? Make an effort to know your neighbors? Yes? Then buy the house.
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on May 13, 2008


(damn html)

I agree with above that this is obviously going to worry you. Life is too short to add to your worries without compelling reason. I'd also wonder if there will be other children around for yours to play with, since I expect many people to have the same reaction as you.

If you assume the worst and think that he still would like to molest kids, you also have to remember that the guy is probably aware that he's under a very heightened level of scrutiny, and that he has no chance of getting away with it with kids in the neighborhood. That said, extra-familial child molesters who begin offending at a young age (<30) have a very high rate of re-offending. I just looked at some analyzes that put it in the 25% range, although estimates vary widely. That of course only includes getting caught. The risk of re-offending stays high until they're about 50.

Title: Recidivism and Age: Follow-Up Data From 4,673 Sexual Offenders
Source: Journal of interpersonal violence [0886-2605] Hanson yr:2002 vol:17 iss:10 pg:1046
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:04 AM on May 13, 2008


Rational arguments for and against? Wow. This is not an area where 'rational' gets used a lot.

The US of A is awash in sex abuse hysteria. HYSTERIA. One blog I visited in the recent past actually praised, advocated, supported, and relished the beheading and burning of a "sex criminal" based on the label alone. Turns out, the guy was a 18 year old who had sex with his 17 year old GF, and Daddy got mad. No real crime occurred, I am sure all of us who had teenaged sex would agree. The real crime was the moron who advocated extralegal revenge based on ignorance. But I digress....

How's this for a shot?....

It's a dangerous world. If you want to avoid all known childhood risks, don't have kids. If you do, and must protect them from all potential sources of higher risk sexual abuse, don't move to this neigborhood but be sure to do a good cursory examination of any prospective neighborhoods to make sure there are no Catholic churches or monasteries nearby. Steer clear of certain police precincts in NY City. Don't associate with west Texas Mormons. Don't under any circumstances visit Austria. And if you REALLY want to protect your children from sexual abuse, don't let them associate with your family, which is where most sex abuse originates... not from some drag-off-and-booger boogeyman behind the bushes.

Succumb to fear and it will be everywhere. Isn't being brave, aware, informed, smart something you want to teach your kids? Fear is useful, but it is a bad tool if it's the only one you plan on giving them. Our nation is becoming a "collection of fearful pussies", to quote my better half, cowering behind a growing police state, collecting guns, wearing bicycle helmets. (How did I ever make it through the 1950's without an assault weapon?)

It is a virtual certainty that any given neigborhood harbors ex-convicts, alcoholics, drug abusers, spouse abusers. In our country, 1% of the population is in jail, for crying out loud. Hundreds of children are maimed each year from speeding teens and drunken adults zooming through 'safe' neighborhoods where there are (presumably) no scary sex offenders. Funny I don't recall seeing many posts about that issue on Metafilter over the last few years.

It's A factor in evaluating the location, but not the ONLY factor. Like all risks, it has to be evaluated in an adult manner. Risk free universes do not exist. If you make this your sole criterium, your decision is already made. In this particular case, the hazard is visible, and in reality, that is the ONLY difference between this and a house two blocks down.
posted by FauxScot at 9:13 AM on May 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


"cowering behind a growing police state, collecting guns, wearing bicycle helmets"

FWIW, the Big Brother loving, bicycle helmet wearing, nanny-staters are generally a very different crowd from the gun collectors. At least in my experience...
posted by jluce50 at 9:27 AM on May 13, 2008


Just up the road? Most sexual abuse and sex crimes are committed by people who know the victims. Acquaintances are most often the perpetrators, followed by family members and then strangers. How are you going to prevent your children from trusting this person who is not a stranger?

Another point is that even if you take this house, other people will likely pass on it, meaning that your resale value is going to be low since the number of potential buyers is lower than the rest of the market.

People don't buy houses for lots of reasons, including roofs, landscaping, etc. I turned down a house because the neighbors had a pool and we knew they had a history of parties and were loud. Sex offender is plenty over the bar and has nothing to do with living in fear. It's called making a wise decision.
posted by about_time at 9:31 AM on May 13, 2008


Boy, there is some nonsense being thrown around in here.
  1. Being concerned that there is a person who was convicted of "forcible rape with an 11 yr old" near your (potential) home is not hysterical, or unreasonable. It is prudent.
  2. The fact that there clearly exist threats that you do not know about does not negate the ones that you do know about.
  3. Saying "it's a world so perilous that it is impossible to track all the horrible threats, EVERYTHING is potentially out to get you. But don't EVER act as if you are afraid of anything" is not useful or particularly possible.

posted by dirtdirt at 9:34 AM on May 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


As a few have pointed out, you have more to fear from your family and friends.
posted by rhizome at 9:53 AM on May 13, 2008


posted for a user who would prefer to remain anonymous.
This happened to me, except the pedophile was not registered, and he was not rehabilitated, and he was right next door. Ultimately it comes down to how skeeved out you might be as your kids get older and play outside your view. However, if you move there, and one day there's an incident that falls short of a crime but leaves you no doubt as to this person's intent, think hard about the anguish you'll feel about the decision to sell your home. (To a family with kids? Do you disclose? etc. etc.) You might wish you'd never bought in the first place.
posted by jessamyn at 10:19 AM on May 13, 2008


Put your address in here. If you live in any concentration of people at all, you will see some convicted sex offenders around you. It would be nice to believe that you can move somewhere without sex crimes, but it doesn't exist. I agree with the others who say take precautions, be aware of it, but don't let it stop you from buying your dream house.
posted by mattbucher at 10:20 AM on May 13, 2008


I think knowing where they are has nothing at all to do with your safety and everything to do with them knowing that everybody knows, about what they'd better fucking not be up to.

You'd be living in a hyper-vigilant street. I'm sure every other person/parent for blocks has weighed it up? It could be this person.. it could well be some other person?? Argh!! Tough one!

Go with what your tummy tells you.
Bad or really good - both bad.
Good but some kind of wary - good.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 10:32 AM on May 13, 2008


Of course some sex crimes are the statutory rape kind where the two teenagers didn't take the age difference into account. But "forcible rape of an 11 yo" is pretty damn straightforward. The only way I can see that getting misconstrued would be as others have mentioned if 18 years ago this "adult" was 12 or 13 years old.
posted by genial at 10:35 AM on May 13, 2008


I haven't seen this question in the thread, and my apologies if I missed it, but what offense is the person registered for? Does the registry say? In many US states, you can look up the actual charges on-line.
posted by zippy at 11:59 AM on May 13, 2008


what offense is the person registered for?

forcible rape with an 11 yr old boy

(apologies accepted)
posted by mattbucher at 12:38 PM on May 13, 2008


I would not live there if I had children, and I would have serious concerns about living there even without children.
posted by zippy at 1:07 PM on May 13, 2008


No, that just means he hasn't been caught doing anything that could get him arrested.

whiskey tango foxtrot

Anonymous, your children are in more danger from you and any partners or relatives you have than they are from this guy. Just move in and pay attention. There are going to be registered sex offenders (of all stripes) everywhere you could possibly go.
posted by hototogisu at 2:24 PM on May 13, 2008


I'd want to known a few more details about the crimes, but I'd probably move there. He would be a known danger and fairly easy to circumvent.

It's the unknown dangers that you really have to worry about.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:59 PM on May 13, 2008


I think you need to ask yourself if you can live in that house and keep your peace of mind. Would you be ok with letting your children play outside and giving them the freedoms that other kids their age enjoy as they get older knowing that he's living there? Even if it's unlikely that he poses any danger it's not worth moving in if you think that this has the long term potentional to negatively impact the quality of your (and your kids) lives. I think the important issue isn't really something that can be rationalised away. It may not be rational to decide not to move to that house but if it gives you peace of mind then that's probably more important.
posted by Laura_J at 4:29 PM on May 13, 2008


I'm a parent. I'd be fine with it. But we don't have anything remotely similar in Australia, either the disclosure laws or the hysteria.
posted by wilful at 6:45 PM on May 13, 2008


This was my experience growing up. My parents knew a sex offender, and made damn sure I was never alone with him. I think they explained it to me very humanly. We've heard rumors that this man is confused about how to treat little boys. We don't want you around him, but we don't want you to be cruel. We don't know, but you are very precious to us.

I knew enough to stay away. This man had been arrested, and i don't think he was a very good person. But I wasn't afraid of him as a child, and my parents never endangered me. Could you have this conversation?

Personally, i'd prefer the devil I know to the devil that might be next door. But I'm a little bit of the the glass is half empty guy.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:23 PM on May 13, 2008


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