There’s nothing more terrifying for a parent than moving to a neighborhood with a registered sex offender, and unfortunately, sexual abuse is prevalent. One in every ten children is experiencing or has experienced abuse by the time they are 18, which is more than a little alarming.
To protect your children, you should make sure you know the basics about Megan’s Law, the different requirements for the sex offender registry, and how to look up this info online/offline.
What is Megan’s Law?
Megan’s Law is a federal law requiring law enforcement authorities to make information invoving sex offenders available to the public. This law was created after the murder of Megan Kanka, who was murdered by her neighbor, Jess K.Timmermendequas, a sex offender.
Before this law, only a few states required registration. Since Megan’s Law, all states must register convicted sex offenders and send notifications to the public if they move to a different neighborhood. It’s a felony in most jurisdictions to fail to register or update information.
Requirements in Different States, e.g., New Jersey
All US states have different rules for how long a person remains on the sex offenders registry or if they can be removed. They’re also allowed to distribute the information in a matter they prefer.
For example, 3rd-degree child endangerment in New Jersey occurs when the offender is accused of engaging in sexual conduct with a child, went against the child’s morals when impaired, or knowingly executed the conduct. The offender is registered for life.
However, some offenders may be eligible for relief after 15-years of good behavior and once they’re unlikely to pose a risk to others. Recidivist sex offenders cannot be eligible.
Individual states typically include the offender’s name, address, picture, conviction, and incarceration date on the registry. You’ll often see state law enforcement distribute this information on social media (Facebook), public websites, newspapers, and pamphlets.
How to Find Sex Offenders in Your Neighbourhood
Now that you understand what Megan’s Law is and how it operates in your state, you can start using the following online and offline tools to find sex offenders in your neighborhood.
Search on the Department of Justice Website
The NSOPW website is your first step to identifying sex offenders in your community. Simply look up your address, city/town, state, and the radius of your search. Some states, like Arkansas, don’t provide coordinates for addresses, so you can’t always rely on this tool.
Do a Reverse Lookup (First and Last Name)
Offenders regularly decide not to register, and finding them can be more difficult. However, police records are widely available. If you know the person’s name, age, sex, and race, you may be able to find them. Use online background check websites to narrow down your search.
Use a Free Tool Called Family Watchdog
Family Watchdog is an app that allows you to type in your zip code and see a map of sex offenders near your area. You can also set up notifications so you’re informed when an offender moves in or out of the area. You’ll also get neighborhood safety tips for being a subscriber.
Go to Patch.com for Safe Trick-or-Treating Maps
Halloween can be a stressful time for parents, even if they’ve lived in the same neighborhood for decades. Before sending your children out for trick-or-treating, check out patch.com for kid-safe Halloween maps that avoid neighborhoods with registered sex offenders.
Check Local State Sites for Public Registries
While NSOPW is a great resource, sometimes local websites will offer more information. Some state-based examples include Seattle’s FBI website or California’s Megan’s Law site. These sites give you access to publicly-available registries, which are updated monthly or yearly.