Stanislaus County residents have a new tool to help track sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Sheriff Adam Christianson said in a news release that his department has launched OffenderWatch, a website used by more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies, 45 of them in California.
Similar to the Megan’s law website, which is run by the state Department of Justice, residents can put in their addresses to search for sex offenders who live nearby. OffenderWatch also allows people to register their address for an email alert from the Sheriff’s Department should an offender move into the area.
Residents can enter as many addresses as they want at no cost, the department said in a news release, suggesting possibilities that include day care centers, schools and churches, in addition to homes.
“People have a right to know which offenders may be living near them, who potentially pose a threat to their families,” Christianson said in the news release. “We’re happy to be able to provide that information.”
Christianson later explained that OffenderWatch, which costs the department $2,700 per year, has broader capabilities than the state site.
“The primary difference with OffenderWatch is that we’re providing proactive public information with email notifications, as well as other investigative tools not available through the Megan’s law website,” he said. Information is integrated with data collected by the U.S. Marshals Service and the department can use the site to track homeless and transient offenders.
The program also allows the Sheriff’s Department to verify that offender addresses do not violate any safety buffers that may be implemented around protected institutions, such as schools, day care facilities and parks. It also helps law enforcement schedule compliance checks, verifying information provided by offenders, the department said in the release.
Christianson said the program is helpful for law enforcement as well as the public.
“The data-sharing element is important, as oftentimes an offender will be contacted by (law enforcement) outside of his or her community,” the sheriff said. “Those contacts can be important for an investigator, especially if we’re investigating an alleged crime that occurs outside of our jurisdiction. The offender registration information we enter is also uploaded to COPLINK, a statewide data-sharing tool that all peace officers statewide can access, even from their patrol cars.”
Residents can access the OffenderWatch registry at the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department’s sex offender search page, www.sheriffalerts.com/ca/stanislaus.