As a parent, you want to protect your children from the world’s dark corners. That means, unsavory as it may be, watching out for potentially dangerous people like sex offenders. When you know what information gets reported on the offender registry, you can speak to your kids about staying safe in the neighborhood.
Know Who Must Register
A person who has been convicted of a sex offense, including an offense against children, has to register as a sex offender. As soon as a sex offender gets out of incarceration, they must register. People have to register whether they were convicted of a minor offense years ago, or continue to commit offenses.
Know How Registration Happens
A sex offender needs to give their name, birth date, SSN, address, fingerprints, vehicle information, photograph, DNA, and information about the offense or offenses committed. Typically, offenders need to register every year. They have to report to a law enforcement agency where they live to register this information. If they move, they need to register again, even if it hasn’t been a year.
Know What Information Is Available to You
Every district is a little bit different, but for the most part you’ll be able to find the same information on sex offenders wherever you live. You’ll get their name, any known aliases, a current address, a photograph, and the offense or offenses they committed. Consider running both a national and a local search.
Know Not All Sex Offenders Are the Same
Though the sex offender registry is a valuable tool, not every sex offender is the same kind of criminal. In some states, kids as young as middle school get labeled sex offenders for relatively innocuous behaviors, like sexting. In many of these cases the kids are too young to understand the consequences of their actions, and are not sexually violent as adults. Look up the offenses when a sex offender moves into your neighborhood.
Know Not Everyone Will Register When They Move
In most places, not registering when you move is a criminal offense. However, you should be aware that some sex offenders do not immediately register. Other sex offenders are able to have their public records closed, and their information is only available to law enforcement.
Know How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex Offenders
The sex offender registry doesn’t fix behaviors found in pedophiles and rapists. On the other hand, people labeled sex offenders for a single action may never commit another sex offense again. To protect your kids, teach your kids about boundaries, when it’s inappropriate to talk to strangers, and that they will not get in trouble for talking about any actions an adult does (including an adult you know) that make them uncomfortable.
Having a sex offender move into your neighborhood doesn’t necessarily mean your kids are in danger. Get the specifics by checking the registry, then have a conversation with your children about safety. Staying informed is your first line of defense against any potential threats.