Russell Co. unleashes new website featuring sex offenders - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Russell Co. unleashes new website featuring sex offenders

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Russell County Sheriff's Office has unleashed a new tool to help the public identify nearby sex offenders.

The tool is called OffenderWatch.  It is a website that allows citizens to search for potentially dangerous sex offenders in close proximity of their homes, work, schools or day care centers.

Right now, there are more than 150 registered sex offenders living in Russell County.

We went to one neighborhood and found 12 sex offenders in a 2 mile radius leaving parents, like Christy Newell, grateful to know who is in their community.

"I'm very concerned because I had no knowledge of that.  I mean I really didn't.  And, having 2 teenage daughters, that's some information I would really like to have," said Newell.

Now, Newell and her two teenage daughters have access to the pictures of registered sex offenders, along with addresses, and past offenses all on the Russell County Sheriff's Office website.

"People don't know who their neighbors are anymore, and that's part of our problem.  We don't know who lives next to us.  And, so, this at least will give you the information on the people who are registered," said Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor.

Taylor says the new website, called Offender-Watch, lets you type in your address and find sex offenders around you for up to a 2 mile radius.  You can even register to get email alerts if an offender registers in your area.  Neighbors like Dennis Arnold are grateful.

"I see kids walking up and down this street all the time.  So, I just didn't realize it was that many [sex offenders]," said Arnold.

The website will cost Russell County Sheriff's Office about $2000 each year, but Sheriff Taylor and this concerned mom says it is worth the money.

"My children, they play outside, and I work until late in the afternoon.  They come home from school, and they come out.  But, now, I think I'm going to re-evaluate my schedule for them," said Newell.

Taylor said the sex offender information has always been available on state websites, but he hopes having a local website will be more convenient for residents.

Russell County will now be a part of a network of 5,000 law enforcement agencies taking part in this effort. That includes all of the Alabama sheriff's offices.

"Citizens have a right to know who may be living near them and could potentially pose a threat to their families. The Alabama sheriffs have the most up to date information on all offenders in the state and I am happy to be able to provide that information to them," said Taylor.

For more information about the site checkout http://www.rcso.org  and click on the SEX OFFENDERS link at the top of the page.

Copyright 2011 WTVM. All Rights Reserved.

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