The real aim of these operations might be to boost support for cops.

Gary, a 62-year-old on Texas’s sex-offender registry, dates the problems with his neighbors to a visit by police in 2018. After a successful real estate career he lives in a relatively safe neighborhood outside Dallas, identifies as a conservative, and has friends on the police force. He’s donated to police charities, once giving $10,000 to the family of an officer killed on duty, he tells The Appeal.

He was convicted of child pornography possession in 2007, spent five years in prison and 10 years on probation, and hasn’t reoffended since, state records show. “It’s very serious,” he said of his offense. “It’s wrong. I take responsibility.” (Gary isn’t his real name, which he asked to have withheld to protect his company and family.)

That day four years ago, a team of local officers and U.S. Marshals showed up at his home in full tactical gear and a tactical vehicle with the Marshals’ logo, he says. They were checking the addresses of those on the registry. Gary showed them his license and they left—the whole thing took perhaps five minutes.

Since 2006, the federal government has funneled millions into sometimes-massive operations to verify the addresses of those on sex-offender registries. It’s hard to tell how often these happen–the Marshals Service didn’t respond to multiple requests from The Appeal about how many operations they ran in the latest fiscal year. But a look at how authorities talk about the operations–and the flattering press coverage they generate–indicates their importance in selling the public on more police. Worse, studies show they likely do nothing to improve public safety or make incidents of sexual violence less likely.

Meanwhile programs with proven track records in preventing sexual violence or successfully reintegrating people previously punished for a sexual crime get little federal help.


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