Is that new neighbor of yours a sex offender? How about the guy who just started coaching your kids’ soccer team? Or even the local teacher or preacher?
You can check on the Justice Department’s National Sex Offender Public Website at www.nsopw.gov, which lets you search across the nation by name, address, Zip Code, county, city and town.
The registry went online in 2005 and was later renamed after Dru Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student who was kidnapped and murdered by a sex offender registered in Minnesota.
The database includes aliases. So, for example, if you search for John Smith, names such as Charles Allen and Jean Antoine come up because they apparently have used those names at some point.
A search of the midtown Manhattan Zip Code 10019 produces 14 records while the less densely-populated Beverly Hills’ 90210 has three hits and downtown Wichita, Kansas, for instance, yields 75 results.
The registry is considered national but actually searches multiple listings around the country at one time and consolidates the matches.
While many of the profiles contain lurid information, some might be for crimes such as urinating in public, using a prostitute, or flashing in public.
“Jurisdictions have their own laws that determine how sex offender information is collected, maintained, and displayed,’’ says the FAQ section of the national website. "Therefore, each jurisdiction has its own registry comply with its laws.’’
In 2013, a Human Rights Watch report urged authorities to stop putting juveniles’ names on local registries for offenses such as ‘’sexting’’ photos of nudity or sex.
The group cited the potentially devastating impact of a public record on young offenders, including a number of reported suicides.
According to the national registry, most sex abuse perpetrators are acquaintances. Almost half are family or extended family. The site says as many as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused but about one-third of the cases are reported to authorities.
The education and prevention section includes suggestions on how to speak to your child, recognize abuse, and provide help and support for victims.
“Understand that you cannot control how the victim/survivor feels or “fix” the problem. Everyone reacts differently to sexual assault and heals at his or her own pace,’’ it says.