Online sex offender registry helps keep public aware

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

There are currently 205 sex offenders in Shelby County, 166 of which are subject to community notification as of Nov. 11, 2020—meaning that law enforcement agencies can send notification to residents of the area close to where each offender is—or will be—residing.

Registered addresses of sex offenders in Shelby County.

All sex offenders are required to register in some form, but just how they register varies depending on age and other factors. Computer software called Offender Watch helps the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement agencies across the state keep track of offenders, which can be a difficult task when offenders break the law by not keeping their information up-to-date.

“The most common registration violation is failing to notify us of an address change,” said Lt. Mark Bishop of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. “The Sheriff’s Office goes out of its way to periodically check the addresses that are registered to ensure that offenders are living at those addresses.”

When a sex offender first moves to Shelby County, SCSO can easily import their information from the agency with which they were previously registered. On the law enforcement side, having the information available digitally helps to streamline the exchange of information between agencies. On the public side, technology allows members of the general public to have timely and accurate information at their fingertips, whether on a personal computer or mobile device.

“Our website is a great resource to the public,” Bishop said. “We work hard at Shelby County to have as much information available to the public as much as we possibly can, whether it’s sex offender registration, people wanted for arrests, booking photos, warrants or dispatch logs. If you visit the website, you can follow the link to sex offender information.”

While there are restrictions prohibiting sex offenders from living or working within 2,000 feet of schools, daycares or other childcare facilities, Bishop said it is important for members of the community to stay aware of their surroundings while using the website to be able to identify offenders in their area.

“Registration information should be a starting point for keeping your children and yourself safe,” he said. “So many times we think of it as ‘I have to keep my children safe,’ but we can also use this information to keep ourselves safe as adults.”

Bishop advises knowing where your kids are and the company they keep at all times. Many organizations have protocols for making sure a child is not alone with a single adult. It is good for parents to check to see if their church or other facility has adopted such checks and balances to keep kids safe.

“Don’t underestimate the importance of talking to your kids about safety in that age-appropriate way,” Bishop continued. “If you have any concern, give us a call and let us look into it. It’s important to take proactive steps to keep kids safe from other potential offenders.”

Understandably, sex crime investigators who handle cases involving sexual assault or child pornography have some of the most difficult jobs in law enforcement. But through their commitment and dedication, they are doing everything they can to protect young victims and seek justice for them, Bishop said.

“We hope to seek justice on their behalf and also make sure they have access to the resources they need to begin the healing process,” he said.

The searchable database of sex offenders can be accessed by visiting ShelbySO.com, scrolling down and then clicking on “Sex Offender Info” on the middle-left side of the page. Finally, click “Sex Offender Registry” to display the list. The page also provides safety tips and allows residents to register for email alerts.