Whidbey: Find a sex offender before Halloween

Just in time for trick or treating, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown announced the launch of a new Web site for monitoring registered sex offenders in the community.

Brown said his staff hurried to get the new, user-friendly “Offender Watch” Web site up and running before Halloween so that concerned parents can avoid the areas where highest risk sex offenders live.

“One of the best ways to prevent crime is public awareness,” Brown said.

Offender Watch can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the Island County Sheriff’s Office Web site.

The site lists and maps Level 2 and Level 3 registered sex offenders, who are deemed as moderate and high risks of reoffending. There are only 13 such offenders in the county and none within Oak Harbor city limits.

Although Brown is pleased with the new site, he hopes that people don’t get a false sense of security from it. While sex crimes are statistically rare in the county, he reminds people that most offenders are people the victim knows.

The program was funded under the governor’s budget, Brown said, and he expects all counties to sign on. The site will eventually replace the current one managed by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The biggest difference over the old system is that new information about a sex offender is instantaneously updated on the site.

Developed by Watch Systems LLC in Louisiana, the Offender Watch software is being used by over 400 agencies in 31 states.

“This program will assist us in tracking offenders, providing current and accurate information to the public and enhancing our efforts to keep our communities safe,” the sheriff said.

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