01/29/06 — Web site can track sex offenders

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Web site can track sex offenders

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on January 29, 2006 2:10 AM

Wayne County residents can click on the Sheriff's Office web page and instantly see if any registered sex offenders live near their home or their child's day care or school.

The Sheriff's Office is the second in North Carolina to have the new program that shows a map of the location of any sex offender's home within one, three or five miles of a particular address.

The program, Sheriff Carey Winders said, was "much faster for our investigative purposes. If a child is abducted or kidnapped -- that's my biggest concern, the safety and welfare of a child -- I can plug in the victim's address and know if there are sex offenders in the neighborhood."

Winders said he had found the program at the national sheriffs' convention and bought it with drug seizure money. It costs $1,000 a year.

Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Dale, who is upgrading the office Web site, called the program "awesome." He said the vendor was responsible for all maintenance. The program was made available to the public Friday afternoon.

"The biggest thing," Dale said, "is that anyone can type in a school, day care or a new home address, and it can search any place in the county."

Dale explained that the locater service extends at least a mile beyond the county line for those citizens who live near the border.

Residents also can be notified by e-mail if a registered sex offender moves into their area. The information, Dale said, would include the offender's name, photo, address, age and conviction information. A day care or school also can be notified.

Dale, who is assisted by Deputy Keith Hartzog, is adding manually a description of the crime for all sex offenders. Dale said it was priority project.

When a sex offender registers with the Sheriff's Office, Dale gets a written copy and enters the information.

"Within 10 seconds the public can see it," he said.

Winders said the new program should be more beneficial than the current sex offender registry, which includes only printed names, addresses and a photo.

"I'm glad to have it," Winders said. "I wish we had it sooner."

The sheriff said the company, based in Louisiana, was affected by Hurricane Katrina and had to relocate its office, causing a delay of several months.

Mecklenburg County became the first in North Carolina to have the program. Several other counties will add it in the coming months.

"We're always looking at new ideas and changes that would help us the office and the citizens," Winders said.

The Sheriff's Office web page can be found at www.waynegov.com, then clicking on Departments and Sheriff's Office.