How Many Registered Sex Offenders Are There in Your State?

2021 Update: Oregon Has Nation's Highest Rate of Sex Offenders

By: SafeHome.org Research | Published: Aug 24, 2021

Jacob Wetterling’s family was not able to lay him to rest until 2016, 27 years after 11-year-old Wetterling went missing while on a bike ride with his younger brother and a friend. The 1989 abduction and murder of Wetterling sparked massive nationwide manhunts and would eventually lead to the creation of national and state sex offender registries.

Today, more than 750,000 names are listed on the 51 sex offender registries maintained by the states and the District of Columbia. As a follow-up on research we first conducted in 2019, our researchers consulted every state’s registry as well as analyzed sex crime and child abuse data to determine which states have the highest rates of sexual violence.

Key findings:

  • A total of 780,407 people were listed on state sex offender registries as of May 2021. That’s an increase of about 32,000 from our previous analysis in 2019.
  • Texas and California have the highest overall numbers of sex offenders, but Oregon and Montana have the highest rates after adjusting for population differences.
  • Alaska has by far the highest population-adjusted rate of rape, and Vermont has the nation’s highest rate of child sexual abuse reports.

Number of Registered Offenders Rising

About 780,000 people are actively listed on states’ sex offender registries as of May 2021, according to our analysis. This represents an increase from the 752,000 people listed in our previous analysis.

By sheer volume, Texas has the highest number of people listed on its sex offender registry (nearly 100,000), followed by California (about 83,000), and New York in a distant third (about 42,000). Almost one in four registered sex offenders in the U.S. are registered in either Texas or California.

The District of Columbia’s registry lists just over 1,000 offenders, making it the smallest of the bunch. Vermont, Rhode Island, and North Dakota all have fewer than 2,000 people on their sex offender registries.

Total registered sex offenders*
Texas 97,386
California 82,751
New York 42,326
Michigan 39,921
Illinois 32,541
Florida 31,831
Oregon 31,570
Wisconsin 25,847
North Carolina 25,437
Pennsylvania 24,116
Georgia 23,567
Tennessee 19,516
Virginia 18,903
Minnesota 18,657
Ohio 18,656
Arkansas 17,439
Missouri 16,845
South Carolina 16,058
Louisiana 12,975
Indiana 12,720
Colorado 11,783
Kansas 11,023
Alabama 10,878
Kentucky 8,984
Arizona 8,855
Mississippi 8,230
Utah 7,809
Nevada 7,332
Oklahoma 7,068
Washington 6,798
Montana 6,485
Maryland 6,432
Iowa 6,313
West Virginia 6,197
Connecticut 5,991
Massachusetts 5,214
Idaho 5,022
Nebraska 5,016
New Jersey 4,671
Delaware 4,315
South Dakota 3,825
Alaska 3,350
Hawaii 3,071
New Mexico 3,056
Maine 2,923
New Hampshire 2,695
Wyoming 2,436
North Dakota 1,940
Rhode Island 1,343
Vermont 1,246
District of Columbia 1,044

*As of May 2021

As we mentioned, Texas and California lead the country when it comes to sheer numbers, but the picture changes when adjusting for population differences. Oregon has the highest population-adjusted rate of sex offenders – about 749 per 100,000. Interestingly, this is identical to Oregon’s previous rate. Montana has the second-highest rate, while Arkansas, Alaska, and Wisconsin round out the top five.

Registered sex offenders per 100,000 residents*
Oregon 749
Montana 607
Arkansas 578
Alaska 458
Wisconsin 444
Delaware 443
South Dakota 432
Wyoming 421
Michigan 400
Kansas 378
West Virginia 346
Texas 336
Minnesota 331
South Carolina 312
Tennessee 286
Idaho 281
Louisiana 279
Mississippi 277
Missouri 274
Nebraska 259
Illinois 257
North Dakota 255
Utah 244
North Carolina 243
Nevada 238
Georgia 222
Alabama 222
Virginia 221
New York 218
Maine 217
Hawaii 217
California 209
Colorado 205
Kentucky 201
Iowa 200
Vermont 200
New Hampshire 198
Indiana 189
Pennsylvania 188
Oklahoma 179
Connecticut 168
Ohio 160
Florida 148
District of Columbia 148
New Mexico 146
Rhode Island 127
Arizona 122
Maryland 106
Washington 89
Massachusetts 76
New Jersey 53

*As of May 2021

Four of the 10 states with the highest rates are in the West, which has the highest average rate of the four major geographic regions of the U.S. Three of the top 10 states are in the Midwest, which has the second-highest average rate. Each region has seen its average rate increase slightly since our previous analysis, but their order has not changed.

Average registered sex offenders per 100,000 people by region and year*
Region 2019 2021
West 312 306
Midwest 296 298
South 246 267
Northeast 155 160

*October 2019 vs. May 2021

Alaska’s Rape Rate About Three Times Higher Than U.S.

In order to be listed on a state’s sex offender registry, an individual must be convicted of a sex-related violent crime, such as rape or sexual assault. States vary when it comes to the types and severity of sex-related crimes that will land someone on a sex offender registry.

However, rape and sexual assault are generally included on the list of offenses that require registration. Nationally, the number and rate of rapes declined in 2019 after several years of steady increases.

Rape is far more common in Alaska than any other state — by a disturbingly large margin. The rape rate in the U.S. in 2019 was about 43 per 100,000 people; Alaska’s was more than triple that rate.

Rapes per 100,000 people
Alaska 149
Arkansas 77
South Dakota 73
Michigan 72
Nevada 70
Colorado 67
Nebraska 65
New Mexico 61
Montana 58
North Dakota 57
Oklahoma 57
Utah 57
Wyoming 56
Hawaii 54
Texas 51
Arizona 50
Ohio 49
District of Columbia 49
Louisiana 49
Kansas 49
Illinois 48
South Carolina 48
Missouri 48
Rhode Island 46
Idaho 45
Vermont 45
Washington 44
Minnesota 43
New Hampshire 43
Alabama 42
Oregon 42
West Virginia 42
Tennessee 41
Florida 39
Wisconsin 39
Maine 38
California 38
Iowa 37
Indiana 37
Kentucky 35
Pennsylvania 34
New York 34
Virginia 33
Massachusetts 32
Delaware 32
Maryland 32
North Carolina 31
Georgia 28
Mississippi 25
Connecticut 22
New Jersey 17

Alaska’s sexual assault rate is so high that it makes the other states in the top five, which all have rates far higher than the U.S. rate overall, seem far safer by comparison. However, Arkansas, South Dakota, Michigan, and Nevada all have sexual assault rates that are nearly double the U.S. rate. (Why is Alaska’s rate so high? That’s the subject of much research. Read more about it here.)

New Jersey has the lowest rate of rape and sexual assault crimes, with Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina making up the rest of the bottom five. Nearly two dozen states have rape rates below the U.S. rate.

Vermont Has Highest Rate of Child Sex Abuse

The other major crime category that requires sex offender registration in most states is child molestation. A host of crimes can fall under this umbrella, including child sex abuse, exploitation, or sexual misconduct with a minor.

Sexual abuse of children is not a separate crime reported by the FBI. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collects data related to child abuse and neglect. About eight percent of children who were victims of abuse in the U.S. in 2019 suffered sexual abuse, according to the agency’s most recent publication.

Nearly 61,000 children were victims of sex abuse in 2019, which equates to a rate of 83 per 100,000 children in the U.S. Vermont has the highest population-adjusted rate of sexual abuse of children, while Arkansas is second, and Utah third. Our last analysis also found these three states having the highest rates.

Hawaii, South Dakota, and Idaho have the lowest sexual abuse rates, but 31 states have lower-than-average rates when compared to the nation as a whole.

Child sex abuse victims per 100,000 children
Vermont 301
Arkansas 231
Utah 198
Alabama 188
Mississippi 182
Ohio 175
Illinois 163
Tennessee 162
Indiana 157
Alaska 155
Maine 145
Maryland 144
Oregon 126
Minnesota 121
Missouri 114
Iowa 98
Texas 94
Colorado 93
South Carolina 85
Kansas 83
Pennsylvania 80
Kentucky 78
Wisconsin 77
Oklahoma 75
Rhode Island 69
Florida 68
West Virginia 67
Delaware 65
Michigan 61
Massachusetts 59
New York 56
Nebraska 55
Wyoming 54
North Carolina 53
Connecticut 52
District of Columbia 51
New Mexico 46
Nevada 42
Virginia 42
Montana 41
Louisiana 40
New Jersey 40
New Hampshire 39
California 38
North Dakota 38
Georgia 34
Arizona 30
Washington 29
Idaho 28
South Dakota 27
Hawaii 26

Connections?

Correlation does not equal causation. However, our analysis indicates that some states seem to have a clear problem with sexual violence affecting both children and adults. Nine states have above-average rates of individuals on sex offender registries and rates of rape and child sexual abuse. Another 14 states are over the national average in two of the three categories.

States by number of above-average rates across categories
Alaska 3
Arkansas 3
Illinois 3
Kansas 3
Minnesota 3
Missouri 3
South Carolina 3
Texas 3
Utah 3
Colorado 2
Idaho 2
Louisiana 2
Michigan 2
Mississippi 2
Montana 2
Nebraska 2
North Dakota 2
Ohio 2
Oregon 2
South Dakota 2
Tennessee 2
Vermont 2
Wyoming 2
Alabama 1
Arizona 1
Delaware 1
District of Columbia 1
Hawaii 1
Indiana 1
Iowa 1
Maine 1
Maryland 1
Nevada 1
New Hampshire 1
New Mexico 1
North Carolina 1
Oklahoma 1
Rhode Island 1
Washington 1
West Virginia 1
Wisconsin 1
California 0
Connecticut 0
Florida 0
Georgia 0
Kentucky 0
Massachusetts 0
New Jersey 0
New York 0
Pennsylvania 0
Virginia 0

Conclusion

How effective these offender registries are at preventing sexual crimes is up for debate. After all, the man who confessed to and was later convicted of Jacob Wetterling’s abduction and murder would not have shown up on a registry because he had no prior convictions for sex crimes before he abducted and murdered Jacob.

Recent changes outlined by the Justice Department to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) may help bring more clarity to state sex offender registries by, for example, specifying the information offenders are required to provide the states.

Methodology

Our sources for rapes reported to law enforcement and rates of child sexual abuse were both listed, and you can follow the links above to explore more data surrounding those rates. We searched each state’s sex offender registry to calculate the number of people listed as of May 2021. 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.

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