Property values did indeed drop by about 4 percent after a sex offender moved into the neighborhood, which was about $5,500 of the median home price in Mecklenburg County. If there’s any good news in this, it’s that the decreases occurred in a very limited area — within about one-tenth of a mile, or two city blocks, of the sex offender. The closer another home was to a sex offender’s home, the greater the decrease: a home next door to a sex offender’s residence could see a drop in property value by as much as 12 percent, whereas a house four or five doors away might see a drop of only 5 percent. The researchers found no evidence of a decrease outside of that tenth-of-a-mile radius.
“The motivation for most economists to look at the relationship between property value and crime risk is to think about what people are willing to pay to reduce crime or their exposure to the risk of becoming a crime victim,” Rockoff explains. “For example, if property values near the residence of a sex offender in Mecklenburg County drop by an average of $5,500, you can estimate that an average person would be willing to pay a premium of $5,500 not to live in close proximity to a sex offender.”
Determining that figure allowed the researchers to make a rough estimate of the costs borne by victims of sexual offenses. Using additional data on criminal behavior, their rough estimate suggests that current Department of Justice figures of slightly more than $100,000 for the cost of victimization for rape and sexual assault should be much higher — as high as $1 million or more.
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