Protecting Your Family from Sex Offenders
It never fails. I get an email from a parent who has become worried about a sex offender living near their home. It’s a valid concern. We are protector parents after all.
It’s our business to know the real threats that face our children.
I’m going to give you some facts that you need to know to make better decisions in the case you find yourself confronted with a sex offender living near your home.
What is a sex offender?
When we say those words we imagine a monster of a person. Someone who looks and acts differently than everyone else. You think you’d be able to spot a sex offender from a mile away because they have horns and fangs, right? But that’s simply not the case.
Sex offenders are people who look just like us. They have jobs, with restrictions obviously. They go to the grocery store and live in our communities. So what are we dealing with, really?
A sex offender is a person who has been convicted of a sex offense and been released from incarceration, parole, or other sentence.
From that definition, we can assume that a sex offender has only been labeled as such after they’ve been caught for a crime, been convicted for it, and served some sort of sentence. Wex offenders are criminals who have served their time. You can’t call someone a sex offender if there isn’t a legal reason for it. So be careful in how you use this term.
Who Should I be Worried About?
It’s important to note that sex offenders are male and female. Men are convicted of this more than women, but women can be offenders, too. How many female teachers do you see in the news accused of a sexual relationship with a minor student?
I think many parents assume that women can’t be evil, but they can. Understand that it’s not just men you need to watch.
An individual has to meet certain criteria to be labeled a sex offender and that involves law enforcement and the courts usually. So something of significance has been done by this person and you need to take it seriously.
How do I Know if A Sex Offender Lives Near Me?
To best understand if a sex offender lives on your street, let’s first take a look at the sex offender registry. Every state and even jurisdiction has its own set of laws and rules about what information is collected about a sex offender. That information is then shared publicly for the purpose of protecting the public.
The types and amount of information vary simply because each state has its own set of laws that govern what’s collected. There doesn’t seem to be a national standard.
The National Sex Offender Public Website is a search engine of sorts that exists so that citizens can search for offenders in their area. This is a database run by the Department of Justice and it’s the best source for this kind of information.
It’s not hosted by the federal government, it really is a search engine for all of the information local jurisdictions have on sex offenders. You can search by name, address, zip code, county, and town. It really is a robust tool to use.
When you search, you first have to submit to follow the terms and conditions for use of the site. They issue a stern warning that the information you get from the site is not to be used to hurt or harass people.
You may get names, aliases, photos, addresses, and their age. You may not get access to case files, but generally, there is a brief about the level of offense the person has committed. Or depending on where you search, you might get more or less information. You should be able to click on each entry to be taken to the local jurisdiction’s website that may contain more information.
Is There a Sex Offender Map?
A great tool the NSOPW offers is to search by the radius of your address. There is an option to enter an address and see registered offenders within a 3-mile radius of that address. Not all states have this data, but most of them do. (I found the web version of the map to be glitchy with my desktop web browser, so keep that in mind.)
I also suggest not to use your address in the search, but the address of another home in your neighborhood. You can also enter the address of your child’s school, your church, and any other important location.
There’s an App for That
For ease of use, the NSOPW has an app and I have it on my phone. You can search just like you can on the website, but there is also a location radius search, too. The app will give you up to a mile from your current location. (That means the app is getting your geolocation from your phone, so just be aware.)
I suggest you run a search when at your home, office, church, friend’s house, and any other location your child may be. Also, use the app when planning your trick-or-treat route this year.
Can Sex Offenders Live in Hotels?
Sex offenders are allowed to live in hotels and use them as a permanent address. When you go on vacation use the NSOPW radius search on your hotel address to see if any are registered in the building. And of course, avoid any extended stay hotels that allow for long-term guests.
When you are booking a hotel, it doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s company policy to allow registered sex offenders to live in their building. The answer could save you from trouble, so ask it.
But as you may guess, sex offenders can lie about where they live. While case officers do follow up and keep track of offenders, we can’t count 100% on these searches.
There are other questions you may have about this topic and that’s why I created the resource Protecting Your Family From Sex Offenders.
This PDF download will go over what you’ve heard in the show plus even more questions like:
What are the three levels of offense and why does it matter?
When are you notified of a sex offender moving near you?
How to get more information on an offender?
And What if you suspect a child is being abused?
Sex offenders are only those people who have been caught and convicted. There are untold numbers of sexual predators at large who have not been caught or somehow slipped prosecution.
These are the greatest threat to our family because they can be a teacher, pastor, friend, or coach. That’s why it’s important to watch who interacts with your child and to follow your gut instinct about people. And if your child has an issue with an adult, listen to your child and act accordingly. Don’t shrug it off.
What I’ve gone over today is some ideas and tools we can use, but no website is going to protect our children, that’s up to us as protector parents.