HICKORY — The following editorial appeared Tuesday in The Hickory Daily Record:
Child sexual abuse is one of the few crimes in which the penalty outlives the sentence.
Historically, completion of a prison sentence pays the offender's debt to society. No so with child sexual abuse. Serving time is only part of a sentence. The offender usually is marked for life, and subject to tracking. A person convicted of molesting a child must register with authorities and is banned from schools and most venues where there are children.
Now, North Carolina is making available an application that lets the public know via smartphone where child sex offenders live. State Attorney General Roy Cooper demonstrated the application on Monday.
"Knowing where sex offenders live can help you plan for your and your children's safety," Cooper said. "Families are on the go and we need to make this critical safety information available to them where they are." The new app allows users to search for registered North Carolina sex offenders by GPS location or street address from wherever they are.
Offenders' home addresses are pinpointed on the app's on-screen map with red markers. Users can search for all offenders within a 1-, 3- or 5-mile radius and can zoom in on the map.
Offenders' names and addresses are listed below the interactive map. Clicking on an offender's name allows users to view detailed information, including photos and a physical description. An additional click on the offenses button pulls up a list of the offender's crimes requiring registration, including the age of the victims.
Users can also sign up to receive email alerts whenever a registered offender moves near their home, local school, day care center or any other address they choose, or to receive alerts about a particular sex offender.
The app was developed by the Department of Justice's information technology staff using information submitted by sheriffs to the NC Sex Offender Registry maintained by the State Bureau of Investigation.
The app gives people the ability to see who's moving into their neighborhoods. And if a family is considering a move to another neighborhood or city, a tap on the app is all that's needed to ascertain if a predator lives nearby.
Tracking sex offenders is a harsh punishment, but there are few crimes that compare with molesting a child. Some users of the application simply want to know who is on the list. But it will be used by many people who want to protect children.
The app is free. Currently, it's available only for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. The DOJ is working to make it available for other platforms. You can get it from iTunes or at www.ncdoj.gov.
We think it's a service a lot of people will appreciate.