How well do you know your neighbors? Not just the people who live right next door, but the house on the corner where your child waits for the school bus, the tenants below you, or that retired couple who just moved in? Laws, such as Megan’s Law, require that convicted sex offenders register their names and addresses with a national database and that this information be made available to the public. There are a number of web sites, as well as apps, that allow you to check to see if any registered sex offenders live or work near you, to help keep you and your family safe. You may be shocked by what you find; I know I was. I live across the street from an elementary school and a middle school, so I assumed my area would come up “clean.” However, a quick search of my zip code revealed 217 registered offenders located within a couple of miles of my home!
Here, we’ll tell you about a few helpful resources that can help you stay aware and answer the question, “Are there sex offenders near me”?
Family Watchdog is a free resource that allows you to search by name or location to find registered offenders. (This is the site I used.) When you search an address or zip code on the website, a color-coded map will come up. Each colored square on the map represents the known address of a registered sex offender. You simply click on a square to see the offender’s name, photos, place of employment or school, a list of convictions and any other known information.
This information can help you know which neighborhoods, homes or businesses to avoid, and can help you make a more informed decision if you’re considering moving to a new area.
Family Watchdog also allows you to sign up for email notifications to alert you when an offender moves into your neighborhood. You can also have notifications set up for the places you and your family frequent, such as a school, library, park, church, family members’ houses, or daycare center. And, if you’re concerned about a specific person, you can search by name and Family Watchdog will notify you of any convictions as well as the individual’s current address and address changes.
Accuracy of Information
Information on Family Watchdog and other sites like this comes from the National Sex Offender Registry, state and federal government public records, and information that sex offenders are required by law to report to officials. Unfortunately, there is no way to ensure this information is 100% accurate all the time. If you are aware of missing or inaccurate information, for example, if you know for a fact that an offender has moved, you can report this information to the police or directly to the website.
Family Watchdog isn’t the only site to offer this service. Users can visit the The Department of Justice National Sex Offender List to search for offenders nearby.
The paid identity theft services below offer automatic notifications if a sex offender moves into your neighborhood. Below is a list of other resources you can use to search names and locations or to sign up for email notifications.
Rapid Protect App
Yes, there’s an app for that. The RapidProtect App (previously called POM Offender Locator) is available for both iOS and Android. This app will identify the known locations of registered sex offenders, wherever you may roam within the U.S. The app is free, but there is a yearly subscription option for $90 that unlocks additional features including: Advanced GPS Tracking for families (set geo-fence and geo-points, if the person travels outside those points an alert is sent), Weather Alerts, Panic Button (send alerts to your designated emergency contacts), Person to Person Family Notes, and Photo Based Checks Ins.
More On Megan’s Law
Megan’s Law is the informal name for a number of laws in the United States requiring law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. The laws were created in response to the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka by a sex offender who lived in her neighborhood. Megan’s Law provides two major information services to the public: sex offender registration and community notification.
Individual states decide what information is made available and how it is disseminated. Commonly included information is the offender’s name, picture, address, incarceration date, and nature of crime. The information is often displayed on free public websites, but can be published in newspapers, distributed in pamphlets, or through various other means.
It’s important to note that Megan’s Law, sex offender registry websites and apps exist to provide information that allows us to make smart decisions about where to live, people and places to avoid, and to help keep our families safe. However, some people have used this information to threaten, harass or harm registered individuals, which is against the law. Never take matters in to your own hands; if you’re concerned about an individual, contact the police or your local law enforcement agency.