New Mobile App Helps Sex Offenders Stay Away from Designated Safety Zones
This article provides an overview of sex offender registration requirements in the United States. Also, it reviews a new app that helps registered citizens comply with sex offender safety zones.
There are close to 800,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. The federal law is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The ACT requires convicted sex offenders to register with local law enforcement agencies. It establishes a nationwide system to track and monitor the whereabouts of sex offenders and provides public access to their information to enhance community safety and awareness. Also, it requires states to monitor and track offenders released into the community. It is a federal crime to knowingly fail to register with the state authority or to check in with the state authority at the required times.
Registered Offenders Must Abide by Certain Rules
Each registered individual has to abide by a particular set of rules for a period ranging from five years to the rest of their life. Rules vary based on the offense’s severity and the state where the offender resides.
Under SORNA, there are three tiers of offenses.
- Tier 1 offenses are people who are first-time offenders. These people must register for 15 years.
- Tier 2 offenders include people who commit offenses against minors and sex trafficking. They must register for 25 years.
- Tier 3 is the most serious, as it involves the element of kidnapping and aggravated abuse and involves a minor. They must register for life.
In addition to registering, rules they must follow may include:
- Complete a formal, state-approved treatment program
- Have their residence (home, apartment, etc.) approved by the state authority
- Make regular check-ins with law enforcement or a probation officer
- Notify law enforcement if moving to another location
- Avoid loitering in areas where children congregate, such as schools, daycare, parks, playgrounds, etc. These are known by various names, such as sex offender safety zones, danger zones, and buffer zones. In addition, they are also known as “exclusion zones.”
- Avoid access to the internet, social media, discussion groups, chat rooms, etc.
Avoiding Areas Where Children Congregate: Sex Offender Safety Zones
In most states, sex offenders aren’t allowed to loiter within a certain number of feet (often 1000 feet) of a school, daycare, playground, or park – anywhere children tend to congregate. Sex offenders can travel within those areas but cannot loiter, hang around, or even sleep on a bench. If the police find a registered sex offender loitering within the distance set by local laws, they will immediately arrest the individual. The arrest is considered a probation violation, and the individual may be sent back to jail.
The problem for sex offenders is – they don’t always know when they are within the “child safety zone” or exclusion zone. They may unknowingly violate the law, putting themselves and the community in danger.
New Mobile App: SO Zones
In early 2018, a registered sex offender thought of a way to help keep himself safe from accidentally wandering into one of these safety zones close to a school, daycare, playground, or park. So, he hired a team of app developers and engineers to develop a database-driven mobile app to help keep himself aware of his location at all times.
The mobile app uses a phone’s real-time GPS tracking capability and a nationwide database of more than 200,000 schools, daycares, and parks. Whenever the phone is within a certain number of feet of one of those locations, the phone gives an audible alert and vibrates. The app considers local laws on required distances, so it helps keep you safe no matter where you are.
Mobile App Features
The application is relatively new but already has an impressive array of valuable features:
- Real-time Map Location Display – The app leverages Google Maps to pinpoint and show your exact location on a map in real time.
- Database of Safety Zones – The app has more than 200,000 schools, daycares, playgrounds, parks, and more in its database.
- Real-Time Alert Notifications – When you’re near or within a SO safety zone, the app notifies you with sound and vibration; the app notifies the user with sound and vibration alerts when in the proximity of a safety zone.
- Compatible With Most Devices – Designed to work with all major devices
- Additional Resources – Besides its handy alert functionality, the app has helpful information on local treatment centers, lawyers, and more.
- Secure Platform – The platform does not collect, track, or store user information.
- Fast and Reliable – The maps track your location in real-time to help keep you out of danger zones no matter where you go.
The SO Zones app is updated regularly with new safety zone locations, changes to local laws and ordinances, available housing options, local attorneys, and other resources.
Learn More and Download the Sex Offender Safety Zones App, SO Zones
To learn more, visit the SO Zones website. If you’re ready to try it, the app is free to download on the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store. The app is compatible with most phones. Make sure you have Location Services enabled on your device. You must be 17 or older to download the app.
If you use the application and find it helpful, rate it on iTunes and Google Play. This will help others learn about it and give it a try.
I think the SO Zones app is a brilliant idea. It helps keep sex offenders out of trouble by helping them avoid areas where they shouldn’t be. At the same time, it helps keep the community more safe. It is also a benefit to law enforcement as it helps sex offenders to stay out of these critical areas and out of trouble.
In addition, the app could prove helpful to probation officers and parole officers interested in keeping their parolees out of trouble.
I look forward to seeing future enhancements and upgrades.
If you have any questions or comments about the Sex Offender Safety Zone app, please post a comment below. Also, check out my other articles on Personal Safety.