North Carolina offers new Android app to track sex offenders

sgilman@newsobserverNovember 7, 2013 

— Android users can now find the whereabouts of sex offenders near them from their device with a new app developed by the N.C. Department of Justice.

The free app, N.C. Sex Offender Registry, has been available for Apple products since January 2012. Now Android users can find it at the Google Play Store or www.ncdoj.gov.

“Having critical information about where sex offenders live is an important tool for families to use to protect their kids,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said Thursday.

Here’s how it works: users open the app, enter their location or the location of a business or school, and view through an interactive Google map all the sex offenders living nearby. Red pin points mark the addresses of sex offenders, and a blue dot shows the current GPS location of the user.

A few taps on the screen bring up additional facts such as profile information, dates and types of offenses, date of conviction, the amount of jail time served and mug shots of the offender. Users can select offenders within a one-, three- or five-mile radius.

Users can sign up for email alerts that notify them when a registered sex offender moves in or out of their area. They also can sign up for alerts on a particular offender, and will receive notification when he or she moves from one area to another.

“Seeing people’s eyes for the first time, when they type in their home address or their children’s school, and they see the red pins come up around, their eyes get big and then they start going through and seeing what the situation is,” Cooper said.

More than 20,000 sex offenders appear on the North Carolina sex offender registry, Cooper said. That might cause alarm, but he said the app is not designed to scare people.

“This is not meant to instill fear in anyone,” Cooper said. “It is just public knowledge.”

The app is mainly a tool for parents concerned about safety for their families. When parents see the red pins around them, Cooper said, they begin to investigate the area more thoroughly.

Developer Scott Glawson used a program called Corona Labs to create the app and ran into some difficulty when trying to create the Android version.

While free to the public, the apps cost the state about $725 per year to maintain, Glawson said. That covers the software to run the app and licenses from Apple and Google.

All the information available on the app is readily available on the state Department of Justice website. Sex offenders must register with the state after they serve their sentences or risk being charged with a felony. Their current address information and other data regarding their crime becomes a public record.

Gilman: 919-829-8955

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