The Sexual Predator on Your Block
Would you know if your new neighbor was a convicted sex offender? Summer's here, and kids are outside. So it's wise to learn what the sex offender registry documents reveal regarding individuals who live in your neighborhood or on your block.
California took the lead in 1947 when the state legislature established the first list of convicted sex offenders. In 1994, the federal government required all states to develop a registry of individuals convicted of sex offenses. Since that date, other laws have become law to strengthen the federal rules and boost registration. While not all states are in full compliance, the vast majority have followed the federal lead.
After a conviction or guilty plea, most sex offenders need to register with state and local officials. Address records must be updated promptly after a move. The most severe offenders should check in with local police every three months or so. The duration on the registry varies depending on the severity of the offense, but it's a lifetime mandate in some cases.
What State Files Reveal
Each state sets its own requirements by statute, but all are accessible to the public. That record generally includes the offender's age, the nature of the crime, a complete physical description of the registrant—often with photos--and their current address. The type of crime listed tells you the severity of the offense.
Violent sex offenses greatly concern law enforcement agencies, but lesser offenses land individuals on these registries, too. In some states, streaking through town will require you to register and frequently update that registration. Possession of child pornography will probably require registration. Even 12-year-olds who watch an adult film out of curiosity have landed on their state's list. Registration requirements may last for a decade, for life or somewhere in between.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) hosts a sex offender website covering all 50 states plus U.S. territories. The agency also provides a comprehensive listing of sex offender public registries.
Know the Risks
There are numerous ways to encounter a sexual predator. But, unfortunately, many dating apps do not screen for criminal records like these. In 2019, ProPublica, a non-profit investigation publication, and Columbia Journalism Investigations (CJI) released a deep dive into dating apps that don't screen for sex convictions.
Match.com--one of the field's most prominent players—eventually embraced a screening process, but Match Group, its parent company, owns 44 additional dating apps, and many still don't review applications for this sort of criminal offense. The list includes PlentyOfFish and Tinder, as well as other free apps. A non-screening disclosure can be found deep in PlentyOfFish's Terms of Service and probably many others. In most cases, the burden is on the user to run such checks.
The Registry Loophole
Sometimes sex offenders don't register since a spot on the registry often leads to denied housing, job terminations and other consequences. A 2015 study by Utica College's Center for Identity Management and Information Protection estimated that 16% of all sex offenders choose identity theft. The actual numbers could be much more significant.
They compromise the identity of a family member or a total stranger. Some move to states with less stringent registry laws. Offenders have also stolen multiple identities to hide from their crimes.
When your identity is stolen—especially at a young age—all crimes, the thief commits link to your name. The damages can be extensive, as victims like Marcus Calvillo of Texas often learn. His identity was stolen in his teens by a man later convicted of child sex abuse. In 26 years of identity misuse, Cavillo's imposter ran up parking tickets, committed crimes and worked using Cavillo's Social Security number.
The victim lost jobs, IRS bills for positions he never held, was denied interviews, lost his driver's license and his home then ended up divorced with no way to pay child support.
Identity theft monitoring and sex offender tracking are two significant services with IDShield. Our goal is to empower parents by giving them the information they need to protect every family member. Individuals get the data they should have to reduce risk and stay safe. We track sex offenders who live nearby. Our reports include the address, name and photo ID, plus details of their offenses.
You can receive alerts when anyone on the registry moves into or out of your neighborhood. In addition, IDShield will alert you of any folks who live nearby that are newly convicted of sex-related crimes once they register.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.