Tips for parents: how to stay safe when sex offenders live nearby

neighborhood-watchOver 700,000 registered sex offenders are living in neighborhoods just like yours all over the United States. As you can imagine, this number would be much higher if we were to include the “unregistered” ones, or the ones that still haven’t been caught or convicted.

As a parent, keeping your family safe from these convicted sex offenders is a top priority. These tips will help you protect your children while allowing them to experience their youth without living in fear.

Be aware

The most important step you can take is to know where sex offenders live. Watch your mail for notifications of sex offenders who are moving into the neighborhood and check the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website regularly. You can search by name or by radius from your home or other places your children play. You can also sign up with a free service like Kids Live Safe who can send notifications to your smartphone when registered sex offenders move to your neighborhood.

Teach your children to stay away from sex offenders’ homes. Some of the homes where sex offenders live may include children who go to the same schools as your children. While it is not necessary for your children to avoid the children or grandchildren of sex offenders, they shouldn’t spend time in their homes. Nearly 80 percent of sexual offenses are committed by someone the victim knows. It is important to keep as much distance as possible between your children and any convicted sexual offenders in your neighborhood.

Talk to your children

Having age-appropriate conversations about sexuality can empower your children. Teach them to tell a trusted adult if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable. Even young children can understand that some parts of their body are private and that other people should not ask them questions about or touch their private parts. They should also know that it is not okay for other people to show them their private parts. Sexual abusers often tell children that bad things will happen if they tell anyone about the abuse. When your children feel that they are able to talk to you or another adult, they are less likely to be victimized.

Know where your children are

If your children are accustomed to living in a neighborhood without registered sex offenders, they may have been able to move about freely, riding their bicycles or walking to the park with their friends. With a sex offender nearby, you will have to pay closer attention to where they are at all times. This is especially true on days like Halloween or when they are doing a door-to-door fundraiser. Give them a list of addresses to avoid on such occasions.

Sex offenders are often skilled at manipulating children. From requests for help finding a lost puppy to offers of candy or a ride to their sick parent, predators know how to lure children and teens away from the safety of their home or school. Role-play with your child so they know what to do if the sex offender confronts them. Knowing where your children are at all times is very important when a sex offender lives in your neighborhood. Ensuring they are never outside alone as well as personally transporting your children to their destination make them less likely to be victimized.

Collaborate with other parents to keep all children safe

You are not the only one concerned about the safety of children since the sex offender moved into the neighborhood. Work with other parents and concerned community members to develop a safety plan. Whether you create a formal neighborhood watch group or an informal network of safe places that children can go if they need help, the connections you form with other parents can protect all of the children in your neighborhood.

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Sam Hadfield

Sam Hadfield is a retired LAPD officer with over 30 years of experience practicing in the states of Florida and California. Today he runs to help families assess the safety of their neighborhoods by tracking sex offenders, child molesters and other criminals. Sam recommends that families keep track of sex offenders in their neighborhoods by using tools like Kids Live Safe or local Sex Offender Registries.
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