This summer, a tech-savvy Sheriff’s Department in Wayne County, New York released a new way for local parents to keep their kids safe. The new app, created in conjunction with the existing Offender Watch technology, allows Wayne County parents to easily connect with the local Sheriff’s Department to receive alerts, get up-to-date local news and even find area resources.
Tracking Sexual Predators
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the app is that it allows parents to log in and view local registered sex offenders anywhere in the county. Through the feature, Offender Watch app users can quickly search for nearby registered sex offenders in their communities.
In addition to the real-time information — the app updates throughout the day as the sheriff’s office receives new registrations — parents can sign up for a free email alert system. This feature notifies them anytime a new sex offender is registered within a certain radius of the addresses parents provide.
The sheriff’s office recommends including homes, schools and even frequently visited public parks and malls to the email alert list (there’s no limit to how many addresses parents and caregivers can register) so concerned parents have the most up-to-date information without having to manually check the database for every location their child frequents.
What Else Can Parents Do
Of course, apps like these shouldn’t give parents a false sense of safety. Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director Gramercy Pediatrics, explains to Parentology that while statistics may show children are more likely to be abducted by someone they know, nearly everyone has heard horrifying tales of kids abducted by strangers.
Hes points to the recent disappearance and suspected kidnapping of a young girl from a New Jersey park, emphasizing the importance of teaching children safety rules from a young age. “The truth is, these child predators are scary,” she says. “They know exactly what to do to get access to your child.”
Have Conversations with your Children
Hes recommends having the “stranger danger” talk with your child early and utilizing role-playing scenarios, something she once did with her now 15-year-old.
“After drilling the rules about stranger danger into him and telling him that no one except his parents, family, or babysitter can pick him up from school, he failed our little test. We asked him, ‘What would you do if a man showed up to school and said that he is a friend of your dad’s and he needs to give you a ride home?’”
Hes’ son answered he’d go with the stranger because the man was probably lonely, which Hes says is an excellent peek into how the brain of a young child works.
Use All the Tools at Your Disposal
Hes thinks the sheriff’s new app is great to use in conjunction with regular conversations with your child about stranger danger, and suggests using any technology you can to keep your child safe.
“I’m a big fan of tracking devices, whether it is a smartphone for older kids, or a GPS location your child’s jacket or book-bag, use it. You can have them synced with your phone and locate your children at all times.”
Keeping the Community Safe
For residents of Wayne County, the new app will be a potential lifesaver. “Our new smartphone app is an innovative way for us to keep our citizens informed and allow them to partner with us in public safety,” Barry Virts, Wayne County Sheriff told his local ABC news affiliate, WHAM.
Among the other features of the app, users can discreetly and quickly alert police to sightings of wanted felons and submit tips.
Wayne County, New York residents can download the app for free by visiting the App Store and Google Play.