These expert tips for parents on how to utilize the public sex offender registry can empower you with knowledge that protects your little ones this Halloween and beyond.

By Maressa Brown
October 22, 2018
Michael Gordon/Shutterstock

When it comes to protecting your children, there are certain measures no one wants to think about taking, but parents often find themselves exploring simply as a precaution. Among these may be researching sex offenders in your neighborhood, especially come October when your child will be knocking on countless doors in the neighborhood.

One in every 10 children either has experienced abuse, is experiencing abuse, or will experience abuse by the time they are 18. And the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that there were 904,011 registered offenders in the U.S as of July 2017.

Given alarming stats like that, you want to be aware of this info going into trick-or-treating season, when planning what route your kids will take to get to their bus stop or school, or ahead of moving to a new area. Really, no matter the specific reason, having this kind of data at your fingertips can be an empowering way to protect your children.

Here, six expert-suggested tips for finding sex offenders in your neighborhood.

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1. Search the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website.

Heading to nsopw.gov—coordinated by the Department of Justice—is the first step to identifying sex offenders in your community.

"The NSOPW is a public safety resource that provides the public with access to sex offender data nationwide," explains Margaret Arsenault CEO of the nonprofit Face2Face Youth Group. "Users can search for sex offenders in any jurisdiction within the United States, including Native American tribal jurisdictions. NSOPW’s search tool provides information about sex offenders through a number of search options, including searching by name, address, by zip code, by county, and city or town. Each of these options is dependent upon the jurisdiction in question providing the information in its own publicly accessible database."

2. You can also check out a free tool called Family Watch Dog.

Familywatchdog.us allows parents to type in their zip and see a map of sex offenders in their neighborhood. They also offer free notifications that help keep you updated with offenders who move in/out of your area.

3. Get more local.

Every state maintains its own registry, notes Arsenault. For instance, in California, it's the Megan's Law site, named for a federal law, and informal name for subsequent state laws, requiring law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. In Seattle, it's You can access a list of individual state registries on the FBI's website, or through your county’s local sheriff’s office or police department.

"The publicly-accessible registries allow you to view the address which a sex offender has listed in their compulsory registration," Arsenault notes. "Some sex offenders neglect to register when they're supposed to, including mandatory updates. [For example,] in California they must update their registration annually or any time they change their residence, which also includes incarceration."

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4. Do a reverse lookup.

"Offenders regularly decide not to register," warns Christy Keating, owner and lead educator at Savvy Parents Safe Kids, LLC. "When this happens, their case is typically referred to prosecutors to file a failure to register charge, but it may take weeks, months, or in some cases, years before they are apprehended."

Clearly, finding sex offenders who haven't registered can be more challenging, Arsenault says. "Essentially, one could do a public search for addresses associated with a particular person, but you'd have to have some information about the person you wanted to search for," she explains. "Knowing, at the very least, the name, age, sex, and race, will make the search much easier. In other words, you have to know who you're searching for."

To do this, you'd want to head to a public search website like BeenVerified.com, a leading source of online background checks and contact information, or similar sites Intellius, Truth Finder, and Spokeo.com.

5. Check your local publications.

"Around Halloween, Patch.com also routinely provides safe trick-or-treating maps for many communities around the country," shares Keating. These maps take sex offenders' locations into consideration.

6. Practice other forms of safety above all else.

"Online registries can give parents a false sense of security," warns Keating. "Many offenders have simply never been caught and/or prosecuted and/or convicted, and this means that vigilance and smarts are important."

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