Last year during Halloween, a sheriff of Georgia placed warning signs at the homes of 3 sex offenders in the community. While Georgia’s state law requires its sheriffs to inform neighbors of sex offenders, it does not yet ban offenders from giving out candy to children. However, a federal judge temporarily put a stop to placing signs in front of their homes, which obviously led to unrest within the community.
Having a sex offender living in close proximity could cause a lot of anxiety and unease, especially for parents, all for good reason. Let’s look at some statistics to better understand why.
What the statistics say
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports around 900,000 registered sex offenders in the US—roughly 274 for every 1
And it’s often an adult figure known to the child who is responsible for many child molestation incidents. Studies done by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) show that as much as 97% of victims under the age of 20 years knew the perpetrator.
And what’s even more alarming is that these sex offenders often tend to repeat these behaviors even after serving time for the crimes committed. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, released sex offenders are 3 times more likely to be arrested again for similar offenses compared to other released prisoners. And the majority of them are highly likely to be arrested again within just 3 years.
Indeed, your child is inevitably exposed to many strangers during school or even when hanging out with friends. But their chances of bumping into a neighbor is even higher—while riding their bikes down the street or going trick-or-treating during Halloween. This is why, remaining alert and taking an interest in what’s happening in your neighborhood, especially when a new neighbor moves in, is more critical than ever before.
So, how can you find out about your neighbors?
There are several important steps you can take to investigate a new neighbor.
- Check public resources
The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) should be the first resource to use. It’s a public national directory of all sex offenders that are convicted and registered. You can search them by name, as well as the location. The information provided will vary among different states based on the laws that apply to each jurisdiction. Therefore, you might find more information on certain individuals and limited details on others. Nevertheless, this is a great free resource to get you started. And you can also reach out to the registry officials in the state where the offender is currently registered to access more details.
- Perform an anonymous private search
Not all sex offenders would register immediately when they move into a new home. They all look forward to a fresh start in a new community that is unaware of their history. Some, in fact, don’t register at all. Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier and convicted sex offender, reportedly evaded verifying his address in-person at the local police station 34 times. And on top of that, many sex offenders are not even reported and are never brought to justice.
What all this means is that there’s a good chance that certain sex offenders are not updated or even listed in these registries. In moments like these, it’s important that you do some background work on your own to ensure that you know who exactly you are sharing a community with.
So, approach your new neighbors and introduce yourself. Find out their names and get to know them a bit better. A Google search can help you unearth any freely available online information relating to them. If you want to dig deeper, use Nuwber for an anonymous, in-depth search. It can draw out information about their previous home addresses, work history, family, relatives, and associates, and even arrest warrants and criminal records if there are any.
All these can help you to not only find out more about your new neighbors but also to verify any information they have already shared with you. This is a great way to determine their authenticity and identify any loopholes in their story or contradicting facts.
So, what should you do if you have a sex offender living in the community?
If you find out that your neighbor is a registered sex offender or has a questionable past, there are several measures you can take to ensure the safety of your loved ones.
First of all, familiarize yourself with the various laws involving such offenders. There are plenty of online resources that provide details on state laws related to such matters and what actions you can take. You can also reach out to the local police department for more information on appropriate steps.
It’s equally important to have an open discussion with your kids and help them understand why they should act with caution. Explain to them about precautionary measures and what types of incidents to alert you about.
Also, keep your neighbors informed. They could be a great source of comfort and together you could all watch out for each other’s safety. And if you notice anything suspicious, don’t hesitate to raise the alarm.
The legal system is doing as much as possible to protect you from predators. There are laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within a certain radius from schools, parks, and other places that children often gather. Regular police checks, periodic reporting to the local police, and even polygraph tests have been made mandatory in many states.
All these efforts are, no doubt, essential to keep your family safe. But the fact is, you could never really know who’s hiding a sinister past behind a friendly smile. Anyone could have some sort of tie-up with not just crimes of sexual nature or pedophilia, but even things like burglary, fraud, stalking, or harassment.
Therefore, being vigilant about your surroundings could go a long way to help protect your loved ones. After all, you can never be too cautious about the safety of your family.