Time to Revisit Your State’s Sex Offender Registry

When I bought my house four years ago I checked for sex offenders.

Back then I had to make an appointment at a police station, prove my identity, wait 24 hours while a background check was conducted, and then view the registry at the police station with an officer looking over my shoulder the entire time. The registry was almost useless because I was limited to searching by zip code or county, which in my rural area covers a wide region.

When California’s Megan’s Law registry became a web site a couple years ago I could now look up offenders on a street-by-street basis pinpointed on a map. The only delay was having to click a disclaimer box.

There were about 20 offenders in my town, but if that number shocks you, you’ve never looked to see how many offenders live in your town. Twenty is low. The bottom line for me was that no offenders lived in my general vicinity.

Yesterday a neighbor mentioned that another neighbor thought she saw a female sex offender walking on our street. I was dubious. Who memorizes the faces of sex offenders? How many offenders are women?

So I revisited the California registry. It turns out a female offender has moved into our neighborhood, one street over. "Lewd or lascivious acts with child under 14 years." We share a backyard corner fence post. We might have borrowed a cup of sugar over that fence.

Looking at the database further, I spotted an offender who works at the university where I used to work. "Continuous sexual abuse of a child." I see him often on my garage sale circuit.

Looking up my childhood home, there are more than 120 offenders
displayed within the first map grid, probably a few square miles,
including one who moved onto my childhood street. Not to scare you, but
they are everywhere.

Safety experts recommend testing your fire alarm batteries twice a
year, coinciding with the switch between standard and daylight savings

I suggest adding "revisit your state’s sex offender registry" to the
list of things to do twice a year. When I was a kid, I played outside
in my neighborhood unattended every day. Something tells me my daughter
will never leave my side.

Here is a list of state sex offender registries
maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sorry Canada, as
near as I can figure, some provinces have registries, but they are not
publicly accessible.

Caution: The US Department of Justice’s composite site for all state registries is outdated. The offender in my neighborhood is not listed.


5 Responses to “Time to Revisit Your State’s Sex Offender Registry”

  1. thordora says:

    You’re right. The canadian registries aren’t publicly accessible in most cases-I think you can contact the police for them however.

    They are everywhere. In many cases, they’re also relatives. So hopefully no one blindly assumes, like my mother did, that you only have to worry about strangers.

    June 27th, 2006 at 8:51 am

  2. Mark says:

    We were all set to move to a new rental house a few months ago, until the landlady directed us to the AZ site and we found someone registered living 2 doors away. Definitely a good resource, just to be aware of what’s what in your neighborhood.

    June 29th, 2006 at 4:24 pm

  3. ann adams says:

    Ours (Merced, CA) shows 25 within a one mile radius of the girls’ elementary school. It also shows one living next door. No fear, if he did once upon a time, he doesn’t now. None of my neighbors remember him.

    I ran the whole photo registry for Merced. Most of them would be unrecognizable if I passed them on the street. They’re mug shots. A high percentage (such as my former neighbor) have failed to reregister which makes the information useless. They could be anywhere.

    So, what we have in many cases is garbage in, garbage out. Somehow, we need to monitor these people more closely.

    Meantime I worry far more about the ones who haven’t been caught.

    July 3rd, 2006 at 5:45 pm

  4. anastasiav says:

    A couple of important things to remember:

    1) the vast majority – the vast, vast majority – of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone who a) the child or family knows well (often a family member) and who b) is not on any registry of any kind.

    2) people can end up on sex offender registries for all kinds of reasons that have nothing at all to do with your kids – or anyone elses. I have personally known four people in my life who have ended up on such a registry – one was 20 and had sex with his 16 year old girlfriend; two were an adult couple who had sex in a local park at night; one was a woman neighbor who liked to sunbathe nude in her backyard.

    (Lewd or lascivious acts with child under 14 years. could mean that she molested a child. It could also mean that she was simply nude in the presence of a child. If you know her name, check old newspapers or the police to find out what exactly her crime was. You might end up being surprised.)

    Having your child never leave your side is not the answer to preventing your child from ever being sexually abused. Educating your child about how to avoid danger — danger from both strangers and people known to your child — is the key.

    July 4th, 2006 at 11:31 am

  5. AJ says:

    Anastasiav, your examples fail to sway. A 20-year-old adult having sex with a 16-year-old? Throw him in jail.

    As for abusers being family friends, I understand, but that doesn’t negate the importance of a registry. Someone who molests a child is dangerous. Suppose I told a molester to his face, “I don’t want you anywhere near my child.” What possible excuse could he give me? “Oh, you are overreacting, I only molested my granddaughter. I would never molest a neighbor’s child.” Huh? Any parent would be insane to take that gamble.

    An “innocent” molester might be an 18-year-old senior in high school having sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend. They are the rare exception to the rule.

    July 10th, 2006 at 11:08 am

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