Online Database Helps Track Sex Offenders

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Safety is a top concern for Pascagoula High School Principal Cynthia Jackson.

"I have a lot of concerns about students and what happens to them once they leave our campus facility," she said, "and certainly predators are there."

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department is making it easier for her to locate some of those predators. It recently opened an online database, called Offender Watch. Anyone can easily type in an address to locate sex offenders living within a two mile radius. The program also offers email alerts when sex offenders change locations, at no cost to the subscriber. The database is updated daily.

Captain Mick Sears of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department hopes it will help Jackson County residents.

"They have the access to what we're looking at on a day to day basis," he said, "and can check on whose in their area, and who's near them."

Jackson County Sheriff Byrd is excited to have the program, which is used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the nation.

"I think it's very beneficial," he commented, "I think it will put the citizens at ease, and knowing just where these people are located."

Addresses of schools, daycares, and parks, are already loaded into the system.  A 2007 law requires that sex offenders live at least fifteen hundred feet away from these places.  The database shows that there is one sex offender living within 1500 feet of Pascagoula High School.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd said he knows about that sex offender, but is not allowed to make him move.  Since he's been living there since before 2006, he is not required by law to move away from the school.

All of his information, from current address to eye color, is just one click away in the database.  The Sheriff's Department hopes the system will help citizens help law enforcement.

"Every citizen of Jackson County, Harrison County, no matter where you are, can access the database and say, that guy doesn't live at that address, let me make a phone call," said Sears.

Byrd hopes that easy access to this information will lead to more arrests of non compliant sex offenders, or offenders who failed to register when they changed addresses.

Cynthia Jackson hopes parents will use the new system.

"Use it," she asked, "and communicate with us, if there is any way that we can increase our safety awareness, we need to know that."