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02-11-04: County neighbors can learn of predators

Mercer one of first counties to test e-mail system for notification


Mercer County residents now can sign up for a new state-sponsored program that automatically sends an e-mail when a convicted sex offender moves into the neighborhood.
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro announced the new four-county pilot program Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at Romer’s Entertainment Facility, Celina.
The Sex Offender and Notification law requires county sheriffs to notify people living within 1,000 feet of a registered sexual predator — those convicted of the most serious sexual crimes. The least serious offenders, like in voyeurism cases, are classified as sexual orientated offenders.
The new computer software allows residents to be notified when any sexual related offender moves within a mile of their residence.
The e-mail program is an addition to the paper notification that sheriffs must distribute to those living in the 1,000-feet radius of a sexual predator.
“We are going to see how this works in Mercer County ... get the bugs out ... and later expand it to all Ohio’s 88 counties,” Petro said.
County sheriffs in Mercer, Lucas, Washington and Stark counties are currently administering the program. Petro said there was no political influence in picking which counties participate in the pilot; two counties are rural, the other two are urban.
The attorney general said this initiative is part of the reshaping of his office to start providing more services to local governments, in areas like crime scene investigation.
Petro explained the importance of sexual predator notification, using the story of a Wayne County girl who was abducted from the county fair by a known neighbor who turned out to be a convicted sexual predator.
“Now, had that family known ...” he suggested.
The new program can be accessed through the county’s Web site, www. mercercountyohio.org. A click on the sheriff link, then the sex offender link will open the offender page. Visitors can look at photos of the county’s two dozen-plus offenders and sign up for the e-mail program.
The new program also offers a search by name or address. A statewide searchable list is available through the attorney general’s Web site.
“This is an important public safety component, it’s not about harassing people who were convicted,” Petro said.


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