Crime

How to find out if a sex offender lives near you

Screen shot of a March 11, 2016, search of sex offenders who live in the area around the Herald Building in downtown Bellingham. Whatcom County residents can use the online tool to search for offenders near their home, school or place of work.
Screen shot of a March 11, 2016, search of sex offenders who live in the area around the Herald Building in downtown Bellingham. Whatcom County residents can use the online tool to search for offenders near their home, school or place of work.

Does a sex offender live in your Whatcom County neighborhood?

All you need is your address, an online connection and a few moments to find out.

You also can sign up for alerts to let you know when an offender moves near your home, workplace or other area.

One important note: It is illegal to harass or harm a sex offender, the same way it is illegal to harass or harm anyone else. The notification service, officials warn, is not to be used for vigilantism or retribution.

Finding offenders near you

▪ Go to co.whatcom.wa.us (the county’s website) and click on “Departments.”

▪ On the menu on the left, scroll down to “Sheriff,” then roll over that to another menu and select “Law Enforcement.” From that submenu, select “Sex Offender Search & Registration.”

▪ Click on “Search for offenders in your area.” It’s has a magnifying glass logo and is on the upper left.

▪ Enter your home address or the address of the area you want to search. (You also can search by offender name or general city of residence.)

▪ If you search by address, a map will pop up showing the approximate home addresses of registered offenders. Click on the number droplets on the map to learn a bit about the offender and see a photo of him or her. You can learn more by clicking on the “view details” link under an offender’s photo. Warning: Some of the details may be upsetting to readers.

Getting alerts

▪ From the “Sex Offender Search & Registration” page, click on “Register for email alerts” near the top of the page in the middle.

▪ Enter the address area for the notification and an email address where the alerts will be sent to you.

▪ Make sure you add the notifications email address (it’s on the form) to your address book so the alerts don’t get diverted as spam.

Search other states, areas

▪ To find offenders in any county in Washington state, try the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Go to http://ml.waspc.org/ and click on the county you’re looking for, either on the map or in the list below it. It uses the same search software as the Whatcom County search.

▪ The FBI has links to sex offender registries in all 50 states. Find it at fbi.gov/scams-safety/registry. It also lists U.S. territories and registries of some tribes, including the Nooksack Indian Tribe.

▪ The National Sex Offender Public Website, run under the U.S. Department of Justice, offers ways to search offenders. It also has tips on ways to talk to your children, how to help a victim, handling teens and their use of technology, and more. It’s at nsopw.gov.

Offender levels

The Whatcom County sex offender search turns up results for Level 2 and Level 3 offenders, along with Level 1 offenders who are out of compliance with the law or are transients.

Here’s what those levels mean.

Level 1: This is the most minor of the offender levels. Those in this group are considered the least threatening to the general public. They usually did not exhibit predatory behavior, often are first-time offenders and likely participated in approved treatment programs. State law prevents public disclosure of their registry information except in certain cases, such as violating the registry requirements.

Level 2: Those considered at moderate risk of reoffending. These people often had more than one victim or took advantage of their position of authority, such as a teacher or babysitter, to abuse someone. Their crimes tend to be more serious than the Level 1 offenders.

Level 3: Those deemed most likely to reoffend. These people usually have more than one conviction for a sex crime. They may be classified as sexual predators or have been violent in addition to sexually abusive. These people may have refused or failed to complete sex offender treatment programs.

Debbie Townsend: 360-715-2280, @HeraldDT

Sunshine series

This is one in a series of stories publishing in The Bellingham Herald and on bellinghamherald.com for Sunshine Week, March 12-19. Sunshine Week was started nationally in 2005 to celebrate access to public information and monitor changes to that access. Learn more at sunshineweek.org.

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