Registered sex offenders: Know your neighborhood

If your children are at home, on the playground, at school, at the bookstore, or playing on a sports team, can you ever feel sure that the people around them are "safe?" There are no 100-percent guarantees unfortunately. Even people you think you know well - coaches, teachers, volunteers, relatives, neighbors - may have a hidden past or a dark side. But there are some ways you can arm yourself with knowledge.

City-data.com is one place you can go to see a full description and picture of registered sex offenders broken down by neighborhood. For example, the site lists all 1,714 registered sex offenders in Philadelphia as of August, 2011.

The description includes the name, age, address, photo, eye/hair/height/weight/race of the person and a list of their convictions. The crimes can range from rape to aggravated sex assault or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. There's also a map showing where all the sex offenders in your area live, down to which floor their apartment is on, and the front or back unit.

It is upsetting to see the information; no one wants to think that a person who has been convicted of harming someone might live next door. But most parents would take a deep breath and then agree that it's better to know, than not know. You might even want to print out a picture of the person/persons to show your babysitters, older children and relatives.

We've put a link to the website at the bottom of this blog.

The blog also connects to the Pennsylvania Megan's Law website, and to the National Sex Offender Registry if you want to broaden your search to other states.

When I checked the site to see what sex offenders live near my house, I found 2 convicted sex offenders within blocks of my home. Scary stuff. But I'm glad I know what they look like now and where they live as a precaution. I'll fill my babysitters and my older son in, too.

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