We have a series of children’s safety books at home that cover topics from fire prevention, to calling 9-1-1, to stranger danger. I know that we’ve read the stranger danger book at least 20 times. We also talk about the topic at strategic times, like when we’re at the grocery store or shopping mall.
Still, my child is friendly. We’ve done our best to teach him manners, courtesy, and respect for adults. So it’s not uncommon for him to wave and say hello to people in the store. I walk a fine line between promoting safety, and encouraging friendliness.
This morning when we went out to the car to leave for summer day camp, a man was jogging by our house. Connor waved and said hello as he passed. The man turned his head, smiled, and said hello back.
I could feel the hair stand up on the back of my arms.
There is a website called Family Watchdog, which is a national database of registered sex offenders. I’ve used this site for years to keep track of convicted offenders in my neighborhood.
I knew that man. I had studied his face on the computer on several occasions. His name is Richard, and he is 51-years-old. On 5/6/92 he was convicted of indecency with an 11-year-old child. I know that was a long time ago, 19 years. But 19 years ago he was 32-years-old.
He lives on my street, about 8 houses down. This last Halloween, I called the local police department to report that his house was fully decorated for the holiday. My concern is that decorations are an obvious invitation for children to come to the door, which is inappropriate for a registered sex offender. I’ve also spoken to the police about his proximity to the local school, which is only about a quarter-mile away. I was told that he didn’t have to be further away than that, but they did follow up on the Halloween incident.
I’m one of those people that believe in giving second chances. I believe that when someone pays their debt to society, they should be allowed to move on. But pedophiles are different. This is not a crime I can understand or wrap my brain around. And I sure don’t have any easy answers. I just don’t know what should be done with people that are sex offenders, I just know I don’t want them near my family. I also know I’d go to prison for what I’d do to one of them for harming my child.
So, thanks to Richard, I had to have another talk with Connor this morning on the way to camp. We talked again about stranger danger, but this time I told him very clearly that the man jogging by our house was a danger. I explained that he had been arrested before for doing bad things, and that he should never speak to him. He wanted to know what kind of bad things, but I only told him he had done something bad to a child.
This is not how I like to start my day.
I urge everyone to use this website (see the link above) as a resource for keeping track of potential threats to the safety of their children. The service is free, and their information is updated every 24 hours. On the left side of the home page, you can enter in your home address to search for convicted offenders in your neighborhood.
It is against the law to harass someone you have found on the list. The information is to be used for awareness only, not as a means to gather an angry mob with torches.
I hope you don’t find any but, sadly, you probably will.