This exploratory mixed-methods study utilized data from 101 semi-structured interviews and a nationwide survey (n = 765) to examine law enforcement perspectives on sex offender compliance with registration obligations. Specifically, law enforcement views were explored regarding the definitions and frequency of non-compliance, its underlying reasons or causes, and challenges and practices relating to its detection and management. Findings indicated that defining sex offender non-compliance with registration mandates is no simple task, but underscored the need to differentiate between purposeful and intentional forms of non-compliance and those that are less so. Data also support prior research indicating that few sex offenders truly abscond, and that most non-compliers are easily located. Detection of registration violators occurs through a number of means, and officers rely on community members, fellow law enforcement agents, and supervision partners to help monitor and manage their registrants. Variation exists between and within jurisdictions in terms of definitions, compliance management practices, and enforcement strategies. Translated into the domains of policy and practice, findings suggest that, rather than framing non-compliance under a single umbrella of “failure to register,” law enforcement efforts might be enhanced through improved typologies of non-compliance that can help to prioritize the use of enforcement resources.
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Results were consistent whether measured dichotomously (single versus multiple) or categorical (single, 2-tier, or 3-tier).
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This work was supported by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice under Grant Award No. 2013-IJ-CX-0028. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice. The findings and opinions expressed in this publication reflect solely the views of the authors and are in no way endorsed by the Colorado Department of Public Safety and do not represent government policy or views.
Conflict of Interest
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Appendix A. Interview Prompts
In your regular duties, have you had to deal with enforcement related issues, for example, dealing with non-compliance of sex offenders? Can you provide some recent examples of when you dealt with enforcement related to non-compliance?
How often would you say that you have to deal with non-compliance issues related to the sex offender registry? … Daily, frequently but not daily e.g. several times a week, occasionally e.g. a few times a month, or rarely?
In those the non-compliance related cases that you’ve had to deal with, regarding the sex offender registry, what would be the general breakdown as to the major reasons for non-compliance? Can you describe some of your more common examples of non-compliance by those on the registry and the resulting reasons for the non-compliance (if you were able to find it out)?
For the overall cases of non-compliance that you can recall, would you say that most of them were easy or difficult to locate? On average, about how long would it take for you to locate a sex offender that was not in compliance?
How often would warrants be issued for non-compliance? Did you find the warrants to be helpful in locating those sex offenders that were not in compliance?
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Walfield, S.M., Levenson, J.S., Cubellis, M.A. et al. Law Enforcement Views on Sex Offender Compliance with Registration Mandates. Am J Crim Just 42, 807–832 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-017-9386-6
- Sex offender
- Failure to register
- Law enforcement