By: SafeHome.org Research Published: May 3, 2022
Interested in knowing your state or town’s crime data? That’s a quick search away. What about how many registered sex offenders live in your state (or even on your street)? That information is also easy to find. While many people may be aware of public state sex offender registries, this information is not reported through official channels on a national level.
Each year, we assemble sex offender data from all 50 states to see which regions have the largest registries and how sex offenses are changing across the country. This year, we found that the number of registered offenders has declined slightly over the past year, from around 780,000 in 2021 to about 767,000 today.
In addition to searching every state’s sex offender database, we also analyzed publicly available data, including crime and child abuse statistics, to determine if patterns exist regarding sexual violence in the U.S.
- A total of 767,023 people were listed on state sex offender registries as of April 2022. This is approximately a 2 percent decrease from 2021.
- Texas has the highest number of registered sex offenders, followed by California. But on a population-adjusted basis, Oregon and Montana have the highest rates in the nation. New Jersey has the nation’s lowest population-adjusted rate of registered sex offenders.
- Alaska has by far the highest population-adjusted rate of rape (155 cases per 100,000 residents), and Arkansas has the nation’s highest rate of child sexual abuse reports (254 cases per 100,000 children).
Number of Registered Offenders Falls Slightly Since 2021
More than 760,000 people are currently listed on states’ sex offender registries (as of April 2022), according to our research. Compared to our 2021 analysis, the total number of registered sex offenders in the U.S. has fallen by just under two percent. These numbers tend to fluctuate throughout the year, as people are added to and removed from registries. Since we began this research in 2019, we’ve found that around three-quarters of a million people are listed on state registries at any given time.
With nearly 100,000 offenders, Texas has the largest list of registered sex offenders in the country, and California ranks second with nearly 60,000. New York had the third-most registered sex offenders, with about 43,000 people in its state registry. Given that those are the three largest states by population, it stands to reason that they would have the highest numbers of sex offenders.
Only about 1,000 people are included on the District of Columbia’s sex offender registry, making it the smallest one in the nation, followed by Vermont and Rhode Island, which also have around 1,000 people each. Our data appendix has total rates for all 50 states at the end of the article.
|States with most registered sex offenders||States with most registered sex offenders per 100,000 residents|
*As of April 2022
While the three biggest states lead the nation when it comes to sheer numbers of registered sex offenders, after adjusting for differences in population, the picture changes. Oregon, which ranks sixth for the overall number of sex offenders, ranks first for sex offenders per 100,000 residents. In Oregon, some sex offenders are required to be listed on the state registry for life, and there are more than 25 offenses that can lead to registration. These factors could contribute to its large registry rolls.
Another Western state, Montana, had the second-highest rate, followed by Arkansas, South Dakota, and Alaska. New Jersey, which ranks 39th for the raw number of registered offenders, has the lowest population-adjusted rate, well behind Massachusetts’ second-lowest rate.
In addition to varying over the course of a year as people are added to or removed from their respective state registries, it’s also important to note that lawmakers are continuing to legislate in this area. California, for example, implemented a tiered system in 2021 that eliminated lifetime sex offender registration. And lawmakers in South Carolina have been ordered by that state’s highest court to implement a mechanism for individuals who are considered low-risk to be removed from the registry.
The West has four states in the top 10 when it comes to population-adjusted rates of registered sex offenders, as does the Midwest. The other two top 10 states are in the South, while the Northeast’s highest-ranking state is Maine, which is 27th.
Midwestern states have seen their average rate climb since our most recent analysis in 2021, while other regions have fallen slightly or held steady. The Midwest now has the highest average rate of registered offenders, surpassing the West this year.
Average registered sex offenders per 100,000 people by region and year*
*October 2019, May 2021, April 2022
There are many types of convictions that can land a person on a state’s offender registry, and specifics vary by state. However, rape and sexual assault are typically included on the list of offenses that lead to registration as a sex offender.
The latest data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is from 2020. In 2020, rape occurred at a rate of about 38 per 100,000 people, a decline from the rate of about 44 per 100,000 in 2019. However, the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported to police.
|States with most rapes per 100,000 people, 2020|
Alaska has far and away the nation’s highest population-adjusted rate of reported rapes. In 2020, reported rapes occured at a rate of 155 per 100,000, more than four times the national rate and more than double the next-highest rate (Arkansas).
While Alaska’s rate is quite high for several reasons, there are many other states that also have considerably higher rates than the nation overall, albeit not in the realm of Alaska’s rate.
The rape rate in Arkansas, the second-worst state, is more than double the national rate. Additionally, South Dakota, Colorado, and Michigan all have rates that approach double the U.S. rate. In fact, only 20 states have rape rates that are lower than the national rate. New Jersey and Connecticut had the nation’s lowest rates.
Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse of children is not reported by the FBI in its own crime category, but it is the other major type of offense that typically requires sex offender registration. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports annual statistics regarding the mistreatment of children, including sexual abuse.
According to the agency, about nine percent of victims of child maltreatment, the official term used by HHS, were victims of sex abuse. Neglect is far more common than sexual abuse, accounting for almost two in three child abuse cases.
Still, nearly 58,000 children were victims of sexual abuse in 2020, which represents a slight decline from the rate in 2019. Adjusted for population, in 2020, child sex abuse occurred at a rate of about 79 per 100,000 children (compared to about 83 per 100,000 in 2019), but several states had rates far higher.
|States with most sex abuse victims per 100,000 children, 2020|
Arkansas had the highest rate of child sex abuse in 2020. There were 254 cases per 100,000 children, which is more than triple the national rate. Arizona had the nation’s lowest rate, just below Washington, while 32 states had rates lower than the overall national rate.
The effectiveness of offender registries is a matter of debate, and in many states, the registries are not used the way they were designed, which was to protect people from habitual sex offenders. And some people in the criminal justice reform movement suggest that in our hyper-connected world, these registries sometimes do more harm than good. They publicize information about dangerous criminals, but also about people who may have completed their criminal sentence or who may have engaged in consensual sex or sexting as a youth.
Still, when used responsibly, sex offender registries can provide an important safeguard for families and others in communities. They also provide a way to measure our progress towards reducing sex crimes in our society. Although the number of registered sex offenders declined between 2021 and 2022, these data show us we still have a lot of work to do to end sexual abuse and assault in the U.S.
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault or abuse and needs support, visit Rainn.org to find resources in your area.
We searched each state’s online sex offender registry to calculate the number of people listed as of April 2022. In some cases, the information was not available from the state registry websites, and in those cases, we contacted law enforcement public information officers and other state officials who provided us with the most updated numbers in their states.
Individual state registries are easy to find via Google, and you can enter your address or zip code or the name of an offender on the national sex offender registry public website here to see who is registered near you.
It’s important to note these figures change on an ongoing basis. That’s because states have varying requirements when it comes to who has to register and how long their names must remain on the registry. We also should note that some states’ registries overlap between sex offenders and others convicted of violent crimes.
Rape data was collected by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations in their annual Uniform Crime Report. We accessed it via the Crime Data Explorer website. The child sex abuse data referenced in our report was from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services 2020 Child Maltreatment report. To determine the number of cases per 100,000 residents or children under 18, we compared both of these data sets with the populations of each state from the 2020 U.S. Census. Please note that many of these crimes may go unreported and the true figures could be much higher.
|State||Total registered sex offenders, 2022||Number registered sex offenders per 100,000 residents, 2022||Number of rapes per 100,000 residents||Number of child sex abuse cases per 100,000 residents under 18|
|District of Columbia||1,047||152||44||29|