FOX13 Investigates: How often do sex offenders repeat sex crimes?

SHELBY CO., Tenn. — FOX13 Investigates dug into how often sex offenders recidivate with sex offenses.

Experts concluded it’s hard to tell.

“Tracking sex offenses is almost next to impossible,” Claiborne Ferguson, a Certified Criminal Trial Specialist in Memphis, said.

Ferguson practices criminal defense, much of that being sex crimes. He said tracking sex offenses is difficult in itself – recidivism, even tougher.

“It’s impossible to ever get a good, firm grasp on what recidivism rates are for sex offenders. It’s too difficult to even know if they’re rereporting because of a lack of reporting,” he said.

SMART is a government office relating to sex offenders. SMART stands for Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking.

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Their website says, in a study, researchers found a sexual recidivism rate of 5.3% for a sample of sex offenders in 3 years following their release. But the rate for overall arrest recidivism was much higher. That jumped up to 17.1% rearrested for a violent crime, and 43 percent rearrested for a crime of any kind.

Ferguson said it’s important to understand that researchers have limited resources when it comes to studies like these. That’s due to a small sample size, and the fact that what defines a sex offender can be vastly different.

“The other problem we have when we’re looking at sex offenders is sex offenses are broad,” Ferguson said. “They sweep widely. So, someone urinating in an alleyway, if a homeless person gets arrested three times, they can be placed on the sex offender registry. That’s vastly different than the predators out there attacking children.”

Ferguson said overall, in his Shelby County experience, repeat sexual offenses aren’t extremely common.

“For the most part, you’re dealing with people who made bad choices and probably will never re-offend ever again,” Ferguson said.