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12-14-05 - Information on registered sex offenders is a matter of public record. We all have access to names, addresses, even pictures. But new technology can bring it all right into your home.
Say you want to know if a sex offender lives near you. You log onto the Internet. The Grayson County web site offers you a list of names. Click on the name and you can view a picture, read about the crime, and find out where the sex offender lives.
But go to mapsexoffender.com or familywatchdog.us and just type in your address. Within seconds, you can see where every sex offender on your street, block, and neighborhood live.
The mapping services are free, and they're becoming more popular.
Steven Traw is the principal at Wakefield Elementary. The first time he typed his school's address into this web site, he was surprised by what he saw. Three registered sex offenders live just minutes away from Wakefield and just a few blocks more to the east, two more offenders.
This isn't news to Grayson County investigator David Sikes. He keeps track of sex offenders that live outside city limits and he says most families don't do enough to find out who lives in their neighborhood.
A spokesperson for mapsexoffenders.com says his company created the site as a public service. They use public records and update their information weekly.
The Texas Department of Public Safety does have a mapping function on their site and it updates instantly, but some of these private sites are more user-friendly.
Here are some things to keep in mind: local county web sites and state registries are the most current source of information. Private sites are not monitored for their accuracy. On one of the sites, there was a discrepancy. Two sex offenders lived at the same address, but it was not clearly indicated on the map because the icons overlapped. But otherwise, two of the sites we looked at mapsexoffenders. Com and familywatchdog.us are useful sites, especially since they are so easy to navigate.