Thursday, July 14, 2005

Picture This: Why Suburbanites Rarely Have To Deal With Sex Offenders

Cliche time: a picture paints a thousand words.

And a map that John Mora has produced on Google Maps paints a picture of hundreds of sex offenders inordinately clustered in and around the Downtown area of Metro Nashville. If John's map is accurate, the sex offenders seem to be clustered particularly within the inner interstate loop around Downtown. However, they also cluster around the I-40 westbound and I-65 north- and southbound arteries to I-440. Other clusters fan out across the East End and across North-By-Northwest. There is some spread beyond I-440 southeast to Antioch.

But otherwise, the map indicates that there are no large clusters of sex offenders living in suburban Metro Nashville. John's map shows a swath from Green Hills through Belle Meade and out to Bellevue that is practically cluster-free. Except for the Stewart's Ferry area near Percy Priest Lake, far East Nashville, including conservative-leaning Donelson and the upscale lake-front suburban neighborhoods do not harbor convicted sex offenders. Far north Nashville, including Madison and Hendersonville also do not seem to bear the burden of sex offenders living in their neighborhoods.

If it is indeed the case that urban neighborhoods are bearing disproportionately the lion's share of efforts to reintegrate convicted sex offenders into society, then this factor needs to be taken into account when suburban critics of city living talk about flight to the suburbs, and either erroneously or misleadingly blame it on higher urban taxes.

Promoting the location of halfway houses in cities rather than suburbs contributes to families moving out of the city rather than into it. Concentrating rehabilitation housing for sex offenders in cities also increases demand for more services (including more police force to prevent future sex crimes), which in turn increases taxes. Suburbanites don't see the need for those taxes, because they never have to see convicted sex offenders roaming their streets.

The consequences for urban Nashville are unfair all the way around: the city gets linked to higher taxes to pay for services suburbs don't need, and the city gets connected to criminality and depravity because suburbs won't brook halfway houses and they resist their obligations to assume some of the share for rehabilitating convicted sex offenders. That in itself is quite a racket.

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