Now from sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com:
By Robin Pyle
Which sex offender is a higher risk to the public?
A. A 20-year-old unmarried man who exposed himself at a party.
B. A 30-year-old married man who molested his 3-year-old niece and 5-year-old daughter.
If you said B, you probably would be wrong - if you're going by the state's assessed risk level for sex offenders, experts say.
You also might be notified by postcard about the man who exposed himself, but maybe not the other, because public notification is based on the risk level.
Authorities warn sex offender risk classifications can be confusing to the public, though state officials are working to improve that.
"It doesn't measure how violent he is," said Adam Taylor Puckett, a sex offender officer with the Lubbock-Crosby County Community Supervision and Corrections Department.
Forty-eight of 411 offenders in the city and county were considered high risks, according to law enforcement listings as of Thursday. More than 150 were considered low or moderate risks.
Nearly one-third of sex offenders in the city and county didn't even have a risk level assigned to them, most commonly because they were convicted and released from prison prior to the 2000 law that requires a risk assessment.
But while the classification may be misleading, it is widely used with little explanation in sex offender registries, which the public can go online to check and see if any offenders live in their neighborhoods.
Locally, residents may go to the police department's or county's Web sites to check.
Residents are notified via postcard when a high-risk offender moves into a neighborhood, but postcards aren't sent for lower-risk levels.
Authorities urge residents to not discount low- and moderate-risk offenders.
"I wouldn't go by the risk level," said Police Cpl. Mark Long. "We've had low-risk offenders re-offend."
Despite the label, a low-risk offender could be someone who committed a serious crime against a child or multiple victims or be prone to violence.
The state's assessed risk level doesn't take into account the individual offender or even his offense.
The classification is determined by a form called Static 99, which is aimed at providing a statistical analysis of the offender's likelihood to repeat an offense.
The form includes 10 questions, and each answer is associated with a point. The risk level is determined by the number of points.
Questions include such things as the number of prior sex offenses, if the victim was a stranger or a family member and the offender's age and the relationship status. The victim's age is not a factor on the form.
For example, single men in their 20s automatically get more points than an older man who is married because statistically they are more likely to re-offend.
"We're not sure what benefit (the classification) has to the public," said Jennifer Mora, a supervisor with the Lubbock-Crosby County office.
She is concerned the classification may cause residents to "have a false sense of security living next to a low-risk offender."
One example of a low-risk offender who lives in Lubbock is a 45-year-old man who was convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a 7-year-old girl in 1992, according to the city's sex offender registry. In another case, a man was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a 6-year-old boy in 1999.
And once a risk level is assigned to an offender, officials said it is not reassessed unless the offender goes to jail for more than 30 days.
Steven Henderson, director of the Community Supervision and Corrections Department, said officials are still learning the best ways to assess a sex offender.
"We're still in the infancy stage of this," he said, noting the standardized form is recognized nationally.
In 2005, the Texas Legislature directed the Council on Sex Offender Treatment to study dynamic risk assessment, which would include assessing the offender based on multiple factors.
"What it's going to provide is a more accurate predictor of risk," said Allison Taylor, executive director of the council. "The main thing is determining the true predators."
She said the public needs to be notified of how dangerous an offender is, rather than just the sexual recidivism level as indicated on the Static 99 form.
The council has been researching the best tools that would help officials determine the danger to the public.
Once complete, the new risk assessment will take into account other factors, such as the age of the victim and how many victims there have been, and provide a better-rounded glimpse of the offender.
The council implemented a pilot program in 2007, for which data are still being collected and analyzed.
The five-year study period is to end in October, but Taylor didn't know when the new risk assessment would be implemented statewide.
I think we should give everyone in the general public the same Static-99 test, and lets see who would be considered a dangerous sexual predator, even without committing a crime, or being caught. I am willing to bet, a vast majority would fail the test.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin