Jan 13, 2015

New online service tracks nearby sex offenders

There’s a new way to track registered sex offenders in your neighborhood and around the state.

The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation recently launched an updated version of its online sex offender registry, switching to a system called OffenderWatch. It allows citizens to search for sex offenders by name, city or by a general area.

You can use the Park County version of the site to check for offenders within a quarter-mile to two-mile radius of any address (such as your home) and get an email alert if any sex offenders move into the area.

“Our citizens have a right to know who may be living near them and could potentially pose a threat to their families,” said Park County Sheriff Scott Steward in a statement announcing the upgraded service.

Steward said the program provides him with the most up-to-date information available on registered offenders, enabling him to easily check that offenders aren’t living too close to protected places like schools.

Offenders are checked between one and four times a year, depending on their “risk” level and are — unless they want to risk a new felony conviction — required to keep current addresses with their local sheriff’s office.

Records accessed on the site last week showed 17 registered sex offenders in the Cody area and 14 around Powell.

All of the state’s sheriffs are participating in OffenderWatch. They join a national network of more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies.

You can access the service by clicking here or visiting the Park County Sheriff's website and hitting the link in the upper right corner labeled, “Sex Offender Registry.”

The service — which comes at no cost to Park County — includes safety tips and information about sex offenders.

For example, “There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ sex offender,” the site advises. “However, all tend to be manipulative, deceptive and secretive.”

Among the list of reasons of why notifications are important, the site says:

  • 75 percent of victims of sexual assault know their attacker
  • Nearly half of victims are under the age of 12
  • More than half of assaults happen within a mile of the victim’s home
  • Sex offenders come from all backgrounds, ages, income levels and professions
Other information on the site includes a list of what behaviors and physical signs can indicate a child’s been abused and a list of things that can indicate an adult or child is showing sexual interest in children.

It also includes tips for talking to children about sex offenders, such as showing them the photos of nearby offenders and telling them to stay away from those people.

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