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Anyone can check sex offender lists, and everyone should do so periodically to stay abreast of just who is living in your neighborhood and community. What else can you do to help a missing or exploited child?
* If you suspect that a child is being abused, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.
* If you have any doubts about what you are seeing, write everything down so that it is fresh in your memory, and you can easily recall it as you inform your local police.
* If you think you have seen a child that has been listed on an Amber Alert, access the AmberCode Website immediately, as well as your local law enforcement agency.
* You can also use the link at CodeAmber that allows anyone to email the details of an alert to anyone else they know, wherever they live.
The list offenders who have committed sex crimes continues to grow. Let's all do our part to keep children safe!
Children and teens are naturally attracted to computers. Computers allow them to have easy communication with friends, and they can do school research, play games, etc. on computers. Computers have made life easier in a lot of ways. However, with the ease of computer access comes the risk of encountering a sex offender.
Each state maintains a list of sex offenders, and you can access that list periodically to see if there are any sex offenders living in your area. However, this list may not cover the sexual predators that search the Internet for their next victim. How can you protect your child?
Teach your child the following safety guidelines, and continue to access your state's list of sexual offenders to search for updates in your area.
* Never download images that are from an unknown source. (These could be pornographic pictures.)
* Choose a either-gender screen name, and be careful what words you use in your screen name. Never use your real name!
* Use the e-mail filters and blockers that your ISP offers.
* Never give out personal information about yourself or any members of your family. This includes filling out info on sites such as FaceBook and MySpace.
* If you receive an instant message from someone you don't know, do not respond, and block that person from your IM.
As concerned citizens, many times people just want to know what they can do to raise public awareness of sexually oriented crimes. What can you do?
In order to stay continually updated and informed, you can periodically check websites that lists offenders convicted of sex crimes on state databases. You can also make sure that your local law agencies are doing all they can to continue to inform the citizens of your community when sexual offenders move into the area.
If you are concerned about the schools in your area, you can also talk to administration and ask them how often they check the sex offenders lists that are listed on the state's database.
Children must be taught that there are adults in the world who might appear nice, but are actually dangerous. They need to understand that there are sex offenders who would do them harm. You can continue to check sex offender lists in your area, but you also need to protect your children in other ways.
* Don't leave your children unsupervised, in a store, in your yard, in a park, in your vehicle, etc. It only takes a few seconds for a child to be abducted!
* Don't allow your child to walk home from school alone.
* If your child is at a neighbor's house playing with a friend, ask that neighbor to call you before he or she sends your child home so that you can come and get your child.
* Don't drop children off at parks to play with other children alone.
* Don't let your child play at video arcades without your presence.
* Take the time to keep your child safe and out of the reach of sex offenders.
What can you do if you suspect your child might be the victim of a sex offender? First, you can check your state's list of sexual offenders. However, keep in mind that the sexual offender who has contacted your child might be an online predator. In this case, it will be hard for you to check sex offenders lists unless you learn the suspect's name. There are some other steps you can take, though, if you believe your child has been targeted.
* If you find evidence that your child has been contacted by a sex offender either through instant messaging, e-mail, phone calls, etc., you should contact your local law enforcement agency.
* Save any type of evidence you have found, such as copies of e-mails, chats online, instant messages, Web addresses, etc. to give to the police.
* Monitor your child's computer access, as well as her phone usage. Be sure and check her cell phone number records if she has her own cell phone or has access to yours.
* Check your computer for pornographic files, and check your computer's history to see what your teen as been looking at.
If we are going to protect our children from sexual offenders, then we have to educate ourselves. We have to understand the mind of a sexual predator. It isn't enough to periodically check the sex offender lists that your state maintains. We must be proactive!
Sex offenders seek out children because they are easy prey and vulnerable. It is easy to win a child's trust. They start out slowly and work their way into the mind of a child. They typically don't even have to use force to manipulate a child to do what they want. We, as citizens, parents, and educators, have to teach our children about these sexual offenders.
* Talk to your child about sexual offenders.
* Explain to your child about what they do. (Even children as young as three or four can be taught.)
* Teach your child that her body is private, and that she must not let someone touch her private parts.
* Teach your children that they shouldn't undress in front of someone even if that person appears to be nice to them.
* Teach them to immediately tell you if someone tries to touch them, asks them to undress, tries to undress them, or tries to get them to touch that person.
* Give your children lots of good attention. Spend time with them. Talk with them.
* Teach them not to give out any personal information about themselves or others in their family.
* Help them understand the difference in going to someone like a police officer or teacher for help and going to someone else, who really wants to harm them.
* Practice role-playing so that your child is prepared in case he is approached by a potential child sex offender.
Each state has a number to call specifically to report sex offenders or find out information on sex offenders. For information on your state, here is a list of numbers and emails:
Alabama Center for Missing and Exploited Children, firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-228-7688
Alaska Department of Public Safety, 1-800-658-8892
Arizona Department of Public Safety, (602) 255-0611
Arkansas Crime Information Center
email@example.com or (501) 682-7441
California Department of Justice
MegansLaw@doj.ca.gov or (916) 227-4974
Colorado Department of Public Safety
firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-239-5732
Connecticut Department of Public Safety
email@example.com or (860) 685-8441
Delaware State Police State Bureau of Identification
firstname.lastname@example.org or (302) 739-5882
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
email@example.com or 1-888-357-7332
Georgia Bureau of Investigation, (404) 270-8465
Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, (808) 587-3100
Idaho State Police, firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 884-7305
Illinois State Department of Police Intelligence Bureau
email@example.com or 1-800-658-8892
Indiana Sheriffs' Association
firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-622-4779
Iowa Sex Offender Registry, (515) 281-4976
Kansas Bureau of Investigation, (785)-296-8200
Kentucky State Police, 1-866-564-5652
Louisiana State Police, SOCPR@dps.state.la.us or 1-800-858-0551
Main State Police, maine_SOR.email@example.com or (207) 624-7270
Maryland Department of Public Safety
firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 585-3600
Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board, (978) 740-6400
Michigan State Police, 517-322-5098
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
email@example.com or (888)234-1248
Mississippi Sex Offender Registry
firstname.lastname@example.org or (601)-368-1740
Missouri State Highway Patrol
email@example.com or (573) 526-6153
Montana Dept of Justice, firstname.lastname@example.org or (406) 444-2497
Nebraska State Patrol, email@example.com
Nevada Department of Public Safety, 775-687-6200
New Hampshire Sate Police, (603) 271-6344
New Jersey State Police, (609) 882-2000
New Mexico Department of Public Safety
firstname.lastname@example.org or (505) 827-9193
New York Division of Criminal Justice
email@example.com or (518) 457-3167
North Carolina Bureau of Investigation, (919) 662-4500
North Dakota Attorney General, firstname.lastname@example.org or 800 366-6888
Ohio Attorney General, email@example.com or 1-866-40-OHLEG
Oklahoma Department of Corrections, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oregon State Police, (503) 378-3725
Pennsylvania State Police, 1-866-771-3170
Rhode Island Sex Offender Community Notification Unit, (401)462-0905
South Carolina Sex Offender Registry, (803) 896-7022
South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, (605) 773-3331
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 1-888-837-4170
Texas Dept of Public Safety, AFIS_CJIS@txdps.state.tx.us
Utah Dept of Corrections, email@example.com - 801-545-5500
Vermont Criminal Information Center, 802-241-5400
Virginia State Police, (804) 674-6750
Washington State Patrol, (360) 705-5100
West Virginia State Police
firstname.lastname@example.org or (304) 746-2133
Wisconsin Dept of Corrections, (608)240-5830
Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, (307) 777-7181
While children have always been at the risk of harm from sexual deviants and offenders, the Internet has opened up many doors that allow sexual predators to prey on children easily. Internet options such as instant messaging and chat rooms make an encounter with a sexual offender a very real risk. What can you do to protect your child?
Each state has a list of sexual offenders, and anyone can easily access these lists. However, there are other steps that you can take.
* Monitor your child's computer access.
* Use the parental controls that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) offers.
* Keep your computer in a family oriented room, such as the kitchen or living room.
* Talk to your child about privacy issues.
* Tell your child to never give out private information over the Internet.
Each state maintains a sex offenders list, and regularly updates the list as sex offenders are released from confinement or as they move from one residence to another. Because sex offenders are difficult to rehabilitate, the risk of rearrest is real.
One of the easiest ways for sexual offenders to make new contacts with their victims is through the use of the Internet. How can you tell if your child is at risk?
* You do a history search on your computer and find pornography. (Sexual offenders often send pornography and sexually explicit materials to their victims.
* Your child spends a lot of time online and is secretive about what she is doing. (She may already be in an online relationship with a sexual predator.)
* Your child receives phone calls either on her cell phone or your home phone from people you don't recognize. (Be sure and check your child's cell phone records and inquire about any strange phone numbers.)
* Your child appears to become withdrawn from family and friends. (Online predators seek to isolate their victims from family and friends.)
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one out of every 10 boys and one out of every five girls will be sexually assaulted by the time they become adults. The statistics are scary and real.
* How do we talk to our children about the sex offenders list in our state and in our country?
* What should we say to them when we talk about offenders who commit sex crimes?
The organization Safety N.E.T., which stands for "no easy targets", wants to educate our children. They have produced a Safety NET kids video that helps to enforce good safety habits. While no parent wants to fill their child's lives with fear, it is essential that children are made aware of the risks they may face.
Talk to your child, and talk to your child's school administrator, too. Ask the principal if they would be willing to incorporate this program into your school system.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|