What to do if a sex offender moves into your neighborhood

What to do if a sex offender moves into your neighborhood

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YUMA - Sex offenders have been in the news a lot lately.  How are sex offenders categorized? What should you do if you learn a sex offender has moved into your neighborhood?

The news lately has included stories like this: "Law enforcement knocks on the doors of more than 200 sex offenders to give our children a safe Halloween" … "a local pastor is accused of buying sex toys for a teenage girl" … "a san luis man is charged with possession of child pornography."

If that seems like a lot, brace yourself -- it's just the tip of the iceberg.

"Only 15-percent of all sex offenses are reportedly nationally," says

Lt. Darren Simmons of the Yuma County Sheriff's Office. He says there are four categories of sex offenders, Level 0 through Level 3.

"Level Zero. That's for a sex offender that had a conviction prior to 1996," explains Lt. Simmons.

1996 ... That's when Megan's law went into effect, authorizing law enforcement to publish the addresses of known sex offenders. The law is named for a seven-year-old girl was raped and murdered in New Jersey in 1994 (pictured, left).

Deciding which level a sex offender falls under is subjective. Law enforcement has a list of weighted criteria for that determination.

"It depends," explains Lt. Simmons. "Do they have any prior convictions as a sex offender? What type of crime was it they committed? Was it a sex crime? Was it assault against the subject? Was it murder? It just depends on the crime and the severity what level they will fall under.">

If a registered sex offender moves into your neighborhood, Lt. Simmons offers this advice.

"Just be mindful. Be aware that he is there. Don't change your life around for it, but just be mindful, especially if you have children. And just pay a little more attention to your kids," says Lt. Simmons.

Lt. Simmons says a section of YCSO's website is dedicated to inform the public about sex offenders. Just visit yumacountysheriff.org.

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