What to Do if You Discover Criminals Living in Your Neighborhood
Thanks to websites like Family Watchdog and CrimeReports that list sexual offenders and convicted criminals that are on state and national registries, it's easy to discover if you have criminals and sexual offenders living in your neighborhood. But once you know, what can you do with this information? You may feel a little lost -- and may even assume there's nothing you can do. But you can take action, stay safe, and stay informed if you find criminals living down the street or a few blocks away.
- Don't panic: If you've lived in an area for a while and are just discovering that you have a criminal living nearby, don't panic. You may feel less confident about where you live, but it's still the same neighborhood you've felt safe in before. Remember that sexual offenders and criminals on public lists have been rehabilitated, and although they may repeat their offense, most are motivated to succeed in reentering society, avoiding repeat offenses.
- Avoid the area: Once you know where criminals or sexual offenders live, make it a point not to pass by their house and don't allow your children to walk past, either, particularly on their way to school. It's not likely you'll be targeted just by being close by, but still, better to be safe than sorry.
- Keep children informed: You don't need to scare your children, but it's a good idea to give them age appropriate information on avoiding criminals. Discuss stranger danger and inappropriate touching, and tell them what to do if they are approached sexually or witness or experience a crime. If they're old enough to understand, show them a photograph of known criminals in your neighborhood so they can avoid them if they notice them.
- Get all of the information: If you've just received a community notification, attend the meeting to learn about the offender and their risk level. You should also learn about any restrictions placed on the individual so that you can report any inappropriate behavior. If there is no meeting, contact your state's registry for more information.
- Report suspicious activity: You should always be on watch for suspicious activity, not just from previous offenders, but from anyone in your neighborhood. Of course, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for suspicious activity from these individuals in particular. If you suspect something is going on, don't hesitate to alert the authorities. But remember: do not confront the sexual offender or criminal. You should also remember that making threats may land you in legal trouble.
- Talk to other neighbors: Be sure that your neighbors know there is a criminal in your neighborhood as well. That way, they can be on the alert and also report suspicious activity.
- Start a neighborhood watch: One trusted and proven way to deter crime in your neighborhood, whether it's by criminals living in your neighborhood or ones that are just visiting, is to start a neighborhood watch. This network of neighbors on alert can identify suspicious activity and discourage criminals from committing crimes in your area. Post signs and publicize the presence of your neighborhood watch so that criminals know the area is under observation.
- Contact school and park authorities: Most likely, schools and other authorities in the area are aware of sex offenders and other criminals living in your neighborhood. But just to be safe, it's a good idea to contact them to discuss their understanding, especially if you have children in school. Share the name, address, offense, and photo if available so that they have all of the information needed to keep an eye out for potential criminals.
- Do not harass sex offenders or criminals: Convicted criminals are likely to have been rehabilitated and are probably eager to simply fit in with normal society again. That is the best outcome for your neighborhood, so you want them to rehabilitate and live a normal life. Harassing offenders or criminals is not helpful, and may be harmful. With harassment, an offender may be pushed to lash out again.
- Download an app for awareness: Get reminders about where sex offenders and other criminals live in your neighborhood while you're out and about.
- Remember that sexual predators and criminals live everywhere: Knowing where convicted criminals live is helpful, but keep in mind that not every criminal is on a list. Many have yet to offend, or they've offended but have never been caught. You should always practice safety with your children and watch for and report any suspicious activity in your neighborhood.
Photo by Flickr user leecannon