New house turns out to be next door to registered sex offender. Now what?
November 26, 2012 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Moved into a picture perfect suburban neighborhood. Just found out my nice next door neighbor is registered sex offender. How worried should I be? How and when do I talk to my kids?

So we moved into this nice suburban neighborhood. Friendly people walking their dogs wishing each other good morning etc. I was planning on having our new neighbors over for an open house soon to get to know them better - so far they've mostly been super cool people, coming by to say hi, helping me once or twice when I was doing yard stuff that I needed help with. Idyllic. I've been telling all my friends how nice my new neighbors are.

So yesterday I was checking on the spelling of one neighbor's name because I was writing the family a note, when lo and behold up pops the Google result referencing the dad's sex offender status. There is no date or location on the record, only the crime: lewd/lascivious activity with child under age of 14.

I called the local PD to see if they would share any useful info. I was hoping they would tell me it was... I don't know. Something long ago and unpleasant but maybe not monstrous? Something that would put my mind at ease that whatever it was he did, it wasn't something I need to worry about him doing to my kids. But they wouldn't tell me anything, not even a date or jurisdiction of arrest. It could have been thirty years ago or last year, there's no info.

So... does anyone have any good advice for me?

My kids are little, not yet at an age where they're outside unsupervised. Any thoughts re when they ought to be told to be on particular guard re this neighbor?

Is anyone here involved in law enforcement and have knowledge of the CA 288(a) statute and its application? I understand it can be an enormous range of stuff, ranging from unpleasant to straight up evil, is that right? Anyone have experience with this population? Anyone know if the missing data re date and place suggests it was long ago and/or in a different jurisdiction?

The PD suggested asking the guy about it. I... can't really imagine how that conversation would go? Any thoughts?

From my reading of the statute it appears that prison time is mandatory. Any ideas how I could find out if this guy has a parole officer I could/should talk to? This is in Santa Clara County, CA.

He's been a great neighbor so far and shown no interest in the kids, but they have lots of cute pets that my kids like to engage with. Do I have to tell them to not pet the nice doggie etc? In general, would I do better to get to know their family better or to keep them at longer arms' distance?

Anonymous because I just don't know what the ramifications are to my household and the whole thing is gross and awful and scary and I'm processing and not ready to talk about it with my name on it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This may be obvious and you may already have done it, but a prudent thing to do would be check more than your neighbor's name (which might be duplicated in a large state like California) and actually check your neighbor's address at California's Megan's Law website.
posted by saeculorum at 3:19 PM on November 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

Tough situation. Honestly I think the PD's idea of talking to him is not a bad one. Mainly because you're going to be totally completely weird around him from now on and my guess is, he will know why, so there's no use in pretending like everything's all fine and it would probably help to clear the air. I'm not sure I would ask him directly for details about what happened though, because that would be quite awkward and I bet someone else here will give you good advice on how to find it out on your own if Google searching didn't turn anything else up. I would probably just say something about how you accidentally came across this information about him on the internet, and it makes you feel really uncomfortable because of the kids, but you understand people make mistakes and that it is in the past, and you hope he'll understand that you can't help but be hyper-sensitive about your kids around him now. Once he knows that you know about his history, I don't think you need to tell your kids not to touch his pets or anything as long as he doesn't mind, and I would feel a tiny bit better about him not trying anything with the kids because he knows you'll be hypervigilant about it (although of course, despite what you might say to spare his feelings, you know that pedophilia is typically a serial crime and imho, you can never ever trust him with your kids). I don't see how getting to know the neighbors any better than you need to would be helpful, I'd be polite but standoffish.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2012 [18 favorites]

This is simple: you are a parent - you need to move.

Just check first to make sure he's not planning to move soon himself. Now you know what to do next time prior to signing a lease or mortgage.
posted by Kruger5 at 3:32 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

1) Are you sure it's him?

2) This is tough but the reality is that any of your neighbors could be sex offenders. Any of your friends could be sex offenders. You have to go with your gut about who you can and cannot trust. Somebody might still trick you or get past your radar and the most important thing there is that your kids tell you. They should be able to tell you and be believed and action should be taken. Make sure you raise your kids this way.

3) I'd wait until you know the guy a little better, know all your neighbors a little better before taking any special action. I'd try to find out the nature of the crime. There's no reason your kids need to know anything and there's no reason for them to be unsupervised around anyone you don't know or don't trust.

4) And, yeah, if you can get more a sense of the situation, I'd ask the guy. You can still be arms-reach friendly and continue on. I wouldn't expect that you'll get the whole truth anyway. It may be that your neighbor doesn't want to be more than cordial neighbors and this would be beside the point.
posted by amanda at 3:33 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would talk to him. Excruciating as it would be. Politely, calmly (maybe practice it in advance), but tell him that you found him listed on the sex offenders list, and when you spoke to the police about it, they suggested that you speak to him. If he'll tell you what he was convicted of, what his sentence was, then you'll have the information you need to decide how to deal with the situation. If he's resistant, if he won't tell you anything, then if moving isn't an option (and I wouldn't agree that it has to be), then you know how protective and vigilant you need to be. If he's a registered sex offender he may be under the requirement not to be around children of a certain age, and I'd definitely want to be aware of that too.
posted by lemniskate at 3:42 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would be quite tempted to move if I knew that it was him and it was anything beyond a "Wow, really, he got a sentence for *that* tiny event?" type of infraction. I would not want to have to worry about it. "I knew he had a record but he seemed really nice and I thought it might be okay" is a sentiment I would never want to have to express!

At the same time, I would be as absolutely respectful as I could be. You don't know his past or where he has been. You have to prioritize your children's safety, but that doesn't preclude recognizing him as a human being (which it sounds like you are doing).
posted by ramenopres at 3:43 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

i'm actually more worried about sex offenders who have never been caught. at least you get to know this guy could be dangerous. there's probably another sex offender or five within a two block radius who will never face the consequences of their actions.

i would speak to him or maybe another neighbor who has kids - not to start the gossip mill, just a "as a fellow parent, i'm concerned and you've lived here a while and i wondered how you deal with it."
posted by nadawi at 3:48 PM on November 26, 2012 [27 favorites]

You mention that he is a father, how old are his children?

A lot of relatively minor offenses require mandatory notifications of sex offender status. From grabbing someone else's out of control child to waltzing around nude in your own house and being seen by a neighbor's child through open drapes.

Don't serious sex offenses involving children require that they stay away from children, even their own?
posted by Max Power at 3:51 PM on November 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'd hire a private investigator. A good PI will have access to all sorts of data bases and can ferret out info like this. Find out as much as you can before approaching the neighbors in question or making hasty decisions. If you're renting, ask your landlord what they know. If you bought, ask the previous owners what they know. Then, once you have as much info as possible, talk to your neighbor.

Also, I think moving would be hasty. There are predatory people in lots of places, and many aren't on a convenient list. Parental vigilance and teaching your kids about grooming and other types of predatory behavior is critical. The idea that moving into a different neighborhood will protect your kids is an illusion. Obviously, you won't be forging close relationships with these neighbors and you won't be having them babysit, etc. As soon as your kids are old enough, they'll also be told not to be friendly with these particular neighbors.
posted by quince at 3:52 PM on November 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

Don't move. There are registered sex offenders in every neighborhood. (Don't believe me? Check your registry. Every two or three years, there's a local newspaper article to that effect.) Even if there aren't any in your new neighborhood, people move in and out all the time. And if it weren't your neighbor, it'd be somebody at the grocery store, or gas station, or McDonalds. Teach your kids how to be safe, keep reasonable tabs on them, and make sure to keep your relationship with them such that they will talk to you if something goes wrong.

(Yes, I discovered nine years after moving to my neighborhood that there's a registered sex offender around the block from me. That's life.)
posted by instamatic at 3:56 PM on November 26, 2012 [41 favorites]

I would talk to him for one main reason: then he knows that you know. I think that's important. Certainly he knows, as a mandatory registered sex offender, that his name is listed and even if it's one of those bogus peeing on the side of the road oops got caught now a sex offender deals, then it's out there and you can choose how to respond and how you ask him to respond. If it turns out to be something more serious, you can decide a later course of action, but if it's something sort of "middling" then I think having that conversation "Now that we both have this out in the open, I'm concerned about my kids and you will understand that I will not have them around your yard and would appreciate you keeping your distance." Sort of an "I've got my eye on you mister!" but friendly, depending on what he says.
posted by marylynn at 3:58 PM on November 26, 2012

Short version: You teach your children to say "no" to unwanted affection of any kind, from anybody and to come get you if their decision is disrespected. Sexual assault typically starts with boundary violation of some sort. If you give zero openings, you drastically reduce the odds of something bad happening.

Longer version on my website.
posted by Michele in California at 3:58 PM on November 26, 2012 [24 favorites]

This is simple: you are a parent - you need to move.

Out of curiosity, where is it in the US you think any family can move to to be nowhere near registered sex offenders? Plugging my parent's ZIP into this registry results in 51 neighbours with issues. Plug in your own ZIP and see what you get, or find your specific state's registry.

I would be vastly less concerned if there are children in the home. To me, that's a strong indicator of a non-predatory offender. Remember that sex offender convictions are pretty easy to come by; your neighbour may have a conviction for a no-contact offence, like underage computer porn.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:00 PM on November 26, 2012 [17 favorites]

Two additional items:

First, the USDOJ stats I've read suggest that the recidivism rates for non-violent sex offenders are lower than for other sorts of crimes, and the stats peter off after 3 years, presumably because if a re-offense is going to happen it'll happen by then. In fact at some point I think I convinced myself that given the incidence of sex offenders in the general population and the recidivism rate, your child was safer in the presence of a convicted sex offender (only half-serious, but I bring it up with an eye roll every time yet another organization does a background check and fingerprints me for my volunteering).

Second, the vast majority of any child related issues happen with acquaintances. Not strangers. Make sure your kids know that this is a person to be wary of, but not deadly afraid of.

And as others have suggested, I'd go ask the guy. The people I know who've been through prison are more than willing to talk about it. Usually prefaced by a year/month/day count of time spent sober.
posted by straw at 4:06 PM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would hire a PI also. I don't think it would be possible to determine the next course of action without knowing whether he passed out drunk with his dick hanging out because he was drunkenly trying to pee in front of a day car center or did something far more horrible.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:06 PM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm the last person on the planet to protect a sexual predator, but...

A few years ago, someone I know stupidly agreed to take naked photos of a 15 year old girl, at her request. He had assumed she was much older than 15 (because she looked much older), the photos were found by her parents, much shit ensued. He is now a registered sex offender even though there was no sexual contact whatsoever.

Don't jump off the deep end just yet. I like the idea of talking to him. It will be awkward. But he just might have made a stupid stupid mistake like my colleague did.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:08 PM on November 26, 2012 [13 favorites]

Definitely let the guy know that you know. Regardless of what he's been convicted of, he'll be on notice.

Then it's time for the talk with your wife and kids. Stranger danger, buddy system, phone numbers, safe places etc. Situational awareness and survival for kids. It works. Start 'em while they're young.

Considering how old your kids are, this is a good time to be thinking about and planning those things anyway. Now you just have some real-world incentive.
posted by snsranch at 4:20 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Research first! You have zero idea what the situation is - so go find out!!

I know someone that is a registered sex offender who lies about the circumstances of the molestation he was convicted of. I think anyone who recommends talking to the guy first is absolutely bonkers. Truly.

You need to find the jurisdiction and look up the case in a data base like Lexus Nexus or whatever is the go to for court cases these days. Do you know any lawyers? They all pay for subscriptions to these types of data bases. Do you have access to law data bases via a nearby university? Perhaps someone you know is a professor or student and has access?

Someone needs to look up the case and get you the details. It's that simple.

Once you know what you are dealing with, then you can decide how to proceed.

Stay calm. Get the facts directly from the legal record.

And yes, a PI has access to the same data bases. Just trying to save you some money. This is as easy as a google search as long as you have access to the right data base.
posted by jbenben at 4:33 PM on November 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't think it would be good for your kids to become really close with this guy. But I don't think it would be good for your kids to become really close with *any* guy.

One of the best things you can teach your kids is to be respectful and even nice to others but as soon as something makes them uncomfortable or they feel the need to keep secrets from Mom and Dad, that is Not Okay. That doesn't mean they're in trouble but it does mean they *have to* tell Mom and Dad.

The beauty of that lesson is it works for all ages, whether someone next door/at school/at church/in the family is being a creep all the way through my roommate has bulimia/is an alcoholic/is running a brothel. The sooner they get that message, the better.

If, for some reason, they can't tell Mom or Dad, they can tell Miss Teacher or Fr Whatever or Aunt Lulu. And when they're older, you can talk about good secrets (best report card ever!) And bad secrets (my new favorite hobby is shoplifting!). But in general, no secrets from Mom and Dad and if something scary happens, tell Mom and Dad ASAP.
posted by kat518 at 4:37 PM on November 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

I would be wary of doing anything until you find out more. It's brutal that you don't have more specific information...but yeah there are unfortunately a lot of ways to end up on a sex offender registry that have little to do with being a threat to society, so you don't want to jump to conclusions just yet. You mention that he's the "dad," is there a "mom" in the picture? Can you discreetly ask other neighbors?
posted by radioamy at 4:39 PM on November 26, 2012

The PD suggested asking the guy about it. I... can't really imagine how that conversation would go?

"So... I was addressing your invitation and I Googled your name, and some stuff came up. [He will know what stuff.] I was wondering whether there was anything you'd like to say about it?"
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:39 PM on November 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

On the one hand, he might have got caught peeing in public or something stupid.

On the other hand, if he got caught doing something unmentionable, it's not like he'd tell you the truth anyways. And no matter what he says, you're always going to feel suspicious and nervous, right?

I agree that you should find out if it's really him. Then you should talk to him, be open to what he has to say and don't pry for details- just basically tell him what you told us, and explain that this is why, regardless of what happened, as a parent there's a part of you that will always feel suspicious of him, and this is why your children will not be permitted anywhere near him or his home and why you'd appreciate it if he did not speak to or interact with your children at all, ever. He might get offended, but that's his problem. Your problem is protecting your kids.
posted by windykites at 4:44 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing private investigator. They are trained at ferreting out this sort of information without tipping anyone off. This is what good PIs are for. If you're in the Bay Area, memail me for a recommendation.
posted by eugenen at 4:46 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

You know, I'm always cautious about interacting with neighbours beyond greetings. It's too easy for feuds (or worse) to develop. I would really not want to discuss his appearance on a sex offender registry, though.

The cute pets are worrisome.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:47 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bear in mind: this guy went to prison, served his time, and is now back in society. Being aware of his past is fine, but moving? That's an extreme reaction to the potential for harm; the world is filled with potential dangers, and it's better to be aware of potential threats than to (wrongly) assume that you're safe because nobody around has a record.
posted by ellF at 4:55 PM on November 26, 2012 [16 favorites]

The time to talk to your kids about strangers, how to get away if someone tries to detain them, running and telling you if someone they don't know tries to talk to them, and so on, is now, because all kids need to learn that.

The time to talk to your kids about your neighbor in particular is never, except in the context of having that difficult but important conversation that your kids' bodies are their own and nobody should be touching them or showing them their own bodies, not even if they're your neighbor and you see them every day.

You may now have a devil you know, but it is the devils you don't know that I'd be worried about more, and you can also tell the kids things like "I don't want you going over to any neighbor's house alone, or even together unless I know about it" and such.
posted by davejay at 4:57 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

i'm actually more worried about sex offenders who have never been caught. at least you get to know this guy could be dangerous. there's probably another sex offender or five within a two block radius who will never face the consequences of their actions.

This. Also, understand that older convictions are not included in sex offender registries. Kenneth Parnell, the man who abducted Steven Stayner, was not on any sex offender registry and folks in Berkeley had no idea he was living there until he was arrested for trying to get his home care worker to buy him a four year old.
posted by ambrosia at 4:58 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

This might be a time to start talking with your kids about bad touching. Let them know that, no matter what, you will believe them if they tell you someone has touched them in an inappropriate way. Even if that person tells them you will be mad; you won't be mad. You will believe them. Let them know it is always okay to say "no" if they are uncomfortable with what someone is doing to them. Set boundaries around what kind of secrets they should and shouldn't have with adults.

OnPreview: Yeah what DaveJay said. Also, what everyone is saying about the offenders who haven't been caught.
posted by gauche at 5:01 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The PD suggested asking the guy about it. I... can't really imagine how that conversation would go? Any thoughts?

BTW I think this notion is flat-out nuts. The least likely thing is he'll be like, 'Oh, yeah, a bit embarrassing...' and then go on to tell you some innocuous story that makes you feel a hundred times better. Far more likely is he'll stammer and you'll have the world's most awkward and unsatisfying conversation, or he'll go full-on creep and dazzle you with a smile and disarming bit of charm and some plausible story of false identification and you'll wander away thinking 'wow, what a nice guy' and then later in your house realize how incredibly creepy that was.

Even in the first scenario, where he tells you this trivial public-peeing-type-thing in an appropriately embarrassed manner and you walk away feeling somewhat better -- how long will it take before doubt starts floating around your brain like an errant feather?

And no matter what, you're looking down the road to some awkward neighborhood barbecues.

What you want, I think, is facts and documentation, and then you can make your own measured determination. Involving him in that determination doesn't make sense to me.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:10 PM on November 26, 2012 [10 favorites]

i think sussing out crime committed (through a PI or lawyer friend or whatever) is great, but i agree that asking him, so he knows you know, is also a great idea. find the real answer first maybe so you'll know immediately if he's lying.
posted by nadawi at 5:24 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you look on the Megan's Law web site and get his info off of it, then search the State of California Judiciary web site. See if you can find his case. You can also go to the local courthouse and they will assist you. Ask for the criminal clerk. I am not licensed in California, so do not know the specifics of your legal system, but you should be able to locate his criminal case file fairly easily if he was convicted in CA. [and there is a good chance that he was]. Once you locate his case, you can get a copy of the criminal complaint and read the down and dirty for yourself. I think this would give you a lot of specific, concrete information. I know in my jurisdiction if you can call the probation or parole officer they will often talk. The probation officer's name would appear in the criminal file.

Moving would be an over-reaction in my mind. There is a VERY broad spectrum of crimes that fall under these reporting acts. Teaching your children well is the best route to go, in my humble opinion. be well.
posted by furtheryet at 5:26 PM on November 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

Your local sexual assault center / rape crisis line will should have resources and advice for you about both finding out more on this guy and talking to your kids and setting appropriate boundaries for them on hanging out with the neighbors (which you should do regardless). I would try not to stress about the neighbor specifically and instead take it as a reminder that lots of nice-seeming people have done awful things.
posted by momus_window at 5:26 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

santa clara courts website

Get Case numbers.

type in case number to case search area

If it is old or not online you will have to go to the court office to the record department to get copies of the case. Bring lots of change, lots of small bills - they usually charge a sorta high price for copies of cases and they do not like to make change and/or are very awnry folks generally.
posted by couchdive at 5:28 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Something similar happened in my neighborhood when I was young. A family that we ended up moving right next door to (after living two houses down from for some years before that) ended up having it be made known that the father had previously had relations with his own teenage daughter, as well as his teen granddaughter who lived with them many years later. Pretty heavy and despicable stuff.

They seemed like nice people.. my younger sister and I had even visited his house (with our parents), swam in his backyard pool (though I don't recall him being around on those occasions, it was the complicit wife who hosted us).. fed their cats while they were away. Other neigborhood girls, friends of the granddaughter, even spent the night at this place, being friends with the granddaughter.

One day, I was about 11 or 12, my dad sat me down after I came home from school and told me about this man and his horrific crimes. Another neighbour had found out, somehow, and came to our door and let my dad know.. she informed some others as well. I was asked not to tell my sister at the time (age 9 or 10), though I'm not sure what the reasoning for that was.. not that it mattered, because it must have been the very next day that somebody in the neighborhood posted signs on all of the telephone poles telling everybody exactly who the man was, where he lived, and what he had done. I suppose we were a somewhat tight-knit community prior to all of this coming to light, but I really feel like, after this point in which it was all out in the open, the neighborhood really came together with a sense of vigilance in looking out for one another, especially for the children, keeping an eye on this guy and the like.

Now, I am not at all advocating pasting signs all over the place. Whoever did it nearby to our place had some kind of solid confirmation, and the man did indeed end up serving time in what I believe was his second sentence for child molestation. My point to all of this is that I would really suggest getting to know some of your other neighbours, especially those with children. I'm a bit surprised that some of the advice above is suggesting you immediately go directly to your offender neighbour. Not that I think it is ultimately a bad idea, but I wouldn't suggest that as your first step here. Why not speak first to some other neighbours. Perhaps they have some more knowledge than you do about the situation and could potentially alleviate some of your fears (or not, depending obviously on the nature of the offense). Or, maybe they know nothing about him and his past, and would appreciate hearing what you have learned. Gain some allies in the community before you confront him directly (though walking the line between informing and rumor spreading/fear mongering territory could be tricky).

And yes, absolutely educate your children on the dangers associated with this man and all other strangers. My sister and I were much older than your kids at the time, but we both knew to be wary of him, and to walk away the one time he dared to try and talk to us. I recall learning about prevention of sexual abuse in school as early as age 5, and probably even earlier than that at home.

Feel free to memail me if you have any other questions (I may even have access to some resources that could help in determining some of the specifics of what his offense was).
posted by wats at 5:40 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are registered sex offenders in every neighborhood.

Yes indeed. In many states, they differentiate types of crime in the little symbols on the maps even. (The New York City map is impressive.)

I don't understand what site you ended up on; "There is no date or location on the record" is a weird thing. But then it varies so much state by state.

You need to do some homework. It's pretty easy to do online. You can also get any prison records online (you need to know whether it was federal or state, and then, if state, you'd need to search state by state). "Sex crime" is a really broad array of offenses, from "indecent exposure" and "lewd behavior" which can be "peeing in an alley and getting busted" and "trying to pick up a consenting adult in public." It can also be a much more serious offense. You should not need a private investigator to do this. Incarceration records are matters of public record, and so are criminal convictions, and therefore, criminal court records.

But there is nowhere to run, as has been pointed out, except towards more neighborhoods with sex offenders.

You can at least rest assured that the vast majority of sexual assault and violent crime occurs between members of a family, so, if you're not hurting your children or spouse, things are going pretty great!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:58 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why not speak first to some other neighbours. Perhaps they have some more knowledge than you do about the situation and could potentially alleviate some of your fears (or not, depending obviously on the nature of the offense).

I think this can be great advice, though it might depend on the neighborhood you're in.
I live on a block very close-knit, where people know each other, and socialize frequently. There is a sex offender who lives in the neighborhood. He served jailtime for a crime that, while not as gruesome as forcible rape/sodomy, was still definitely wrong, was still definitely abuse, and that he definitely should have gone to jail for. Which he did, and was released.

Everyone knows.
He is not ostracized, and is invited to neighborhood social events. He seems pleasant, though kind of awkward, and it on polite terms with everyone. I am sure, though, that if any parent on the street saw anything remotely inappropriate about his behavior regarding any child in the neighborhood, they would step in, and would definitely let the other parents know. Not as a vigilante thing, but because the people on this block are a real community, and take care for each other, as such.

If you are in a situation like this, I think talking to neighbors could actually be a good way of handling things.
posted by vivid postcard at 6:06 PM on November 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Just to reinforce what others have said; you're virtually assured to be living fairly close to one or more registered sex offenders if you live in a city or suburb. I've put my address in to the California list and it's like searching for a dry cleaners. It's like somebody carpet bombed the place in a B-52 and the payload was creeps.

So you should take the same precautions you should have been taking already in terms of talking to your children. It also helps to be part of your community so neighbors can watch out for eachother.
posted by Justinian at 6:26 PM on November 26, 2012

As you say, there is a wide-range of what this means. In California, someone who was convicted of a sex crime as a minor may have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. There are plenty of well reasoned critiques of sex offender registry laws.

Whether you agree with these laws or not, as has been said above, most child sexual abuse is perpetrated by people who are connected to the child - friends and relatives. You do not have to befriend this person, and in fact you can easily ensure that your child never interacts with him. If you're worried about what to tell the child, you can just keep the interactions to a minimum and not make a big deal of it. My kid doesn't interact with most of our neighbors. No big deal. That's modern life.

The reality is, our children will see, walk by, talk to adults have sexually harmed other children. As parents, we have to live with that reality. Educate your child. Teach them to be confident and advocate for themselves. Provide age-appropriate sexuality education.

I can't answer whether you should keep interacting with this person or not. That's ultimately up to you. Obviously you're not going to have your kid interact with them unsupervised. I think the risk of harm to your child, if you minimize contact, is no more than the risk of any other stranger.

In my opinion it is not your business to hire a PI or investigate this person's life. What outcome do you want here? What if you find out that this person did something monstrous? Then what? If you want to know so much, I suppose I agree with those who suggest you ask directly.
posted by latkes at 7:35 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

But they wouldn't tell me anything, not even a date or jurisdiction of arrest.

Does that seem weird to anyone else? Police should be helping here, and these records should be public so there's no reason for the police not to at least point a parent in the direction of finding out more information. If I were you, anonymous, I'd contact my local police station's community relations person and double-check that there isn't more information they can give you about what and when this person's crime was, and at the very least ask them to walk you through what you need to do to find out whether we're talking about public urination or something more serious.

latkes: In my opinion it is not your business to hire a PI or investigate this person's life.

For what it's worth, we just had an offender with multiple convictions over the last 10 years move onto our block last month, and the email alert one of the neighbors had signed up to receive included dates, the nature of the crime and the ages of the children involved. If the state of California doesn't routinely provide it, finding out that basic information seems appropriate, and not some kind of witchhunt or anything.

(Also for what it's worth, aside from a couple of us making sure the notice that had been forwarded to the mostly-upper class neighborhood email list was translated into Spanish and printed out for the Hispanic families in the apartments around him, there didn't seem anything else that needed doing.)
posted by mediareport at 7:45 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look him up here. It lists work location and home location, along with aliases and the offense(s). I have it bookmarked and check the maps around my home every three months or so.
posted by summerstorm at 8:26 PM on November 26, 2012

Sadly, I actually just had to deal with a sex offender situation with a registered sex offender who did not announce it. Because yes, they're supposed to, but if no one tells the parole officer, nobody knows. Memail me if you want more details on how to do any of this.

Anyway: first, you have the ability to do a FOIA request. Looking him up on the sex offender registries should say where his original location of arrest/conviction was. Doing a FOIA request will pull up details of the original offense, pleas, etc. It won't bring up names of children involved but will bring up all other salient details. Also, he may need to be registered with a parole officer, who may, depending on the crime, be very interested that the guy isn't doing the notifications he needs to.
Some sex offenders also have curfews. Find out what's going on - know your enemy, as it were.

I personally ascribe to the idea that you shouldn't be forced to move from your nice community - the fucking child molester should, so I'm all about the public shaming. But if you're not, there's still some protective measures you can do. DO talk to your children. You don't have to explain what happened, but, "Mr. X has done bad things to people and I do not want you going over there, ever." should be sufficient. Also, DO talk to the neighbors. They may know what's going on, but if they don't, they need to be aware so they can be just as protective of their kids as you are of yours.
posted by corb at 8:48 PM on November 26, 2012

With no dates--he could have been an 18 year old with an underage girlfriend. The PD might not even have that information. You could run a lexis/Nexis search at the local library, or search for his name on a database of the local newspaper or you could see if any other neighbors know anything.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:19 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I personally ascribe to the idea that you shouldn't be forced to move from your nice community - the fucking child molester should, so I'm all about the public shaming.

This is exactly why the OP needs to do some real research. "Registered sex offender" can mean a lot of different things, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with children or even with molesting anyone. He could have been caught peeing in an alley after his brother's pre-wedding party. He could have been an 18-year-old dating an underage classmate with an overprotective father. Or he could have done something much more harmful. Facts are absolutely necessary here, and it's the OP's responsibility to find out the facts before letting rumor/emotion/fear/vengeance dictate his actions.
posted by headnsouth at 3:36 AM on November 27, 2012 [18 favorites]

Yes, urinating in public will get you marked as a sexual offender in some areas.

I can't believe people here are telling you to move to a new house because of a label. They aren't even encouraging you to understand what it exactly means to be registered as a sexual offender. It's like how people overreacted to AIDS/HIV back in 1970s.

By law in some states, a sexual offender must inform all of his neighbors of his status. You shouldn't be worried about bringing the subject up to him as he has probably talked about it before with several neighbors. Even if there wasn't a law in your state, I'd be skeptical to believe that other neighbors haven't been concerned about the same thing and discussed it with him.
posted by nikkorizz at 4:46 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am compelled to defend the call to move.

Those that are proposing it's not such a big deal, or, not all sex offenders are the same, or, teach your kids to be wary, etc., what will you say if the OP's child is violated? You will not be there to protect the kid, and all of these approaches would be worthless.

For a parent, this is not academic. It is about their child, and a sex offender that lives right next door. Protection comes first, not gambling the odds.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:28 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

this article has a fairly good run down of PC 288. Contact was most likely involved. Of course, that doesn't rule out false accusations.
posted by missmagenta at 6:22 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

For reference, I have a relative who was convinced and serving time for that statute and his crime was masturbating with a young boy. While there are sex offenders everywhere, as a parent, I would investigate his crimes further and make sure that your child and the neighbors children are never in a position to be groomed as victims.
posted by JuliaKM at 6:38 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Please be respectful towards other commenters and the OP here. If you cant do that, don't answer until you can. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:27 AM on November 27, 2012

Of the five people I know who were sexually abused as kids, not a single one of those offenders is, or ever has been, registered as a sex offender. Feel free to research, as it may put your mind at ease. But those who focus on raising your kids to confident and assertive and wary of grooming and willing to talk to you about anything are on the right track. Because these folks were all raised in idyllic settings, too - there's no "safe" neighborhood, only safer families.
posted by ldthomps at 8:33 AM on November 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

For I think around $50 a site like will do a background check including criminal history which may yield more info for you...There are sample criminal reports on the site
posted by heatherly at 9:48 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Regarding "secrets" and kids. A friend of mine has taught her daughters that we don't keep secrets--there are surprises and things that are private.
posted by luckynerd at 10:03 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not sure if you'll be able to find out much more information via this site, but it can't hurt to look. Checking this site is now par for the course when I'm moving (which I'll be doing soon).

You do WHATEVER YOU NEED TO DO to safeguard your kids. Get politeness out of the equation.
posted by wwartorff at 10:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

there are 8 known child molesters in my family. 1 of them is in prison and will be on the list when he's free (and i feel he's borderline mentally handicapped). the other 7 have been protected by family/church and will probably never be brought up on charges. i have another relative on the list for a romeo/juliet crime. i know the plural of anecdote isn't fact - but if you asked me who the most dangerous child molesters in my family are, they are absolutely in the other 7.

the list is the sort of thing that makes people feel like they can have information that keeps their family safe, but i think in reality it gives a false sense of security. i agree that politeness shouldn't be your goal, but you should be aware that jumping to worst case scenarios won't keep your family any safer.

you might be interested in this case where a guy thought the sex offender who moved in was a child molester and killed him, but, oops, totally not a child molester. i mean, yes, a scumbag rapist, but "protect the kids!!" becomes the sort of cry where people lose their minds and sometimes do things that can't be taken back once all the facts are in.
posted by nadawi at 12:46 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

I deal with sex offenders for a living. I would agree that there isn't a reason to freak out, or move, until you have more information. The vast majority of offenders gain access to children by being really nice to them and their parents. If that is the case with this guy, then what you need to do is make sure your children are never, ever left alone with him, or in a situation in which they could be alone with him or in physical contact with him. This means that if you have your mom come stay in the summer, she needs to know that if the kids are playing outside, this guy doesn't hang out with them. Obviously, no hugs or sitting on laps. Anyone with your children in your house will need to know the rules.

Sex offenders are generally looking for low-hanging fruit-for parents who are too busy or too incapacitated to protect their children, or for parents who are in a position to trust the offender. This is why offenders seek out places like churches to victimize children; it's not there is anyting inherently enticing to them about the church, it's that people in churches often trust each other simply for being a member of the church, and will allow each other access to their children in a way that doesn't happen with, say, your coworkers.

I'd say do what you can to find out details of his crime, and then let him know that you know. Don't do this in a big dramatic confrontational way, but rather in a clear and direct way: "Jim, I've recently learned that you were convicted of sex abuse for molesting your 10 year old niece. Obviously, you understand that I'll need to set some boundaries for my own children, but I'm not going to shun you or avoid talking to you at my mailbox.". Don't argue with him about the specifics of his case, as almost every single sex offender I've met in 20 years dramatically minimizes his crimes. For instance, they almost always state that they were caught on the one and only time it happened (how likely is that?), that they thought the girl was older, that the child climbed in bed with them and they, half-asleep, mistakenly touched the child thinking it was their spouse, etc.

I say don't move because, as others have pointed out, there are offenders in every neighborhood, and the majority of them are not registered. Yes, there are some folks out there who are required to register for urinating in public, but I think way more people SAY that's why they have to register than is actually the case. Bottom line, you know one of the people that you have to be extra vigilant about, which puts you one up. I'd only move if you learned he was a predatory, violent, indiscrimate offender: those are, unfortunately, very rare.

Finally, read this pamphlet. It's what sex offenders can tell us about protecting children, and it's spot on, in my experience.
I would argue with an above poster that says that these offenders are very unlikely to reoffend: the research I've read has said exactly the opposite. Obviously, not every SO is the same, and many can be successfully treated, but orgasm is an incredibly powerful reinforcer of behavior, and it is very, very difficult to change people's sexual arousal patterns and behaviors.

Let us know what you find out! Oh, and if you find out he's on probation, definitely call and ask to talk to his PO, and they can probably give you information about his level of risk.
posted by purenitrous at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2012 [11 favorites]

Jesus, purenitrous, that pamphlet has depressing statistics: one in ten men will abuse? Really? 25% of kids?

Also, are there any restrictions on sharing that brochure outside your area? My BiL was just complaining that an offender moved into their neighborhood, and I think they might want to read it.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:38 PM on November 27, 2012

from wiki
The global prevalence of child sexual abuse has been estimated at 19.7% for females and 7.9% for males, according to a 2009 study published in Clinical Psychology Review that examined 65 studies from 22 countries. Using the available data, the highest prevalence rate of child sexual abuse geographically was found in Africa (34.4%), primarily because of high rates in South Africa; Europe showed the lowest prevalence rate (9.2%); America and Asia had prevalence rates between 10.1% and 23.9%. In the past, other research has concluded similarly that in North America, for example, approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children.
so maybe a little lower percentage depending on the study, but not much.
posted by nadawi at 1:49 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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