The sex offenders registry contains
information about people convicted of sexual offers. All fifty
states in the US and the District of Columbia (and some European
countries) have a sex offenders list that is open to the public.
However, some information is visible to law enforcement alone.
There are plenty of reasons you may
want to conduct a
sex offender search or find out whether or not there
are sex offenders near you. Fortunately, that information is freely
available, and you have every right to look up more data if you feel
the need to.
Why does the sex
offenders registry exist?
The sex offender registry was
initially designed as a sex offenders map. It enables you to find
out whether or not there are registered sex offenders in your area
so that precautions can be taken. As the world shrinks, people use
these registries for research to ensure they are safe. You might use
the registry in the following way:
▪ Before purchasing a house in a new
neighborhood, you may want to check whether or not any registered
sex offenders live near you. If you have children or feel
vulnerable, you may wish not to live near registered sex offenders.
▪ Before entering into a new
relationship or going on a date with someone, you might want to rule
out whether or not that person was involved in a sexual crime or
convicted of an offense.
▪ You may want to ensure that any
people in your employ (e.g., nannies, gardeners, cleaners) that will
be around your children were not convicted of sexual offenses
Sex offender registries contain
information, including the offender’s address, physical appearance,
and criminal history. While the sex offenders registry has been
subject to some controversy, it’s a helpful tool if you are
concerned about your family's safety.
Who has to register?
Any individual convicted of certain
sex crimes is required to register. Individuals convicted of violent
crimes must remain registered for longer and have to update their
addresses more often. Failure to register as a sex offender comes
with penalties. If an unregistered sex offender is convicted of a
new violent federal crime, their sentence may be increased by up to
thirty years. However, the system isn’t perfect, and many
perpetrators do not keep their information updated. Using a public
records search can help keep you in the loop.
What should I do if
I find out a sex offender lives nearby?
Remember that someone is a registered
sex offender may not mean that you are in danger, but taking
necessary precautions is essential. Don’t confront the offender or
identify them publicly to others. Instead, take the opportunity to
speak to your family (particularly your
children) about stranger danger. Teach them to be cautious of
strangers and about speaking up if something doesn’t feel right.
Make sure they know never to follow a stranger or enter a house or
car without your permission.
If you do want your children to stay
far away from a person on the registry, make sure you explain your
reasons in an age-appropriate way, e.g., “This person may not be
safe,” or “We don’t speak to people we don’t know because they may
not be safe.” You should teach your children not to do favors for
other adults or to accept treats from them. If an adult asks for
help, they should decline and fetch one of their parents instead.
You should also take some time to
familiarize yourself with your state or county’s sex offender rules.
Some areas may have community meetings where updates are offered
about newly registered offenders.