Looking for sex offenders in Federal Way? There's an app for that

Using the Android app
Using the Android app 'Safe Neighborhood' while standing at South 324th Street and Pacific Highway South in Federal Way, the first 50 registered sex offenders pop up in an approximately 3.5-mile radius of the location.
— image credit: Greg Allmain, The Mirror

“There’s an app for that” and “Droid does” are two saturated advertisements from the past few years, as Android and iPhone battle for the hearts of technology junkies. While most apps are for entertainment purposes, many can provide helpful services that keep families safe.

Two such apps are “Offender Locator” for iPhone and “Safe Neighborhood” for Android devices. Both allow users to see a geographic display of registered sex offenders within a specified radius.

The results can be startling.

Using the Android app “Safe Neighborhood” while standing at South 324th Street and Pacific Highway South in Federal Way, the first 50 registered sex offenders pop up in an approximately 3.5-mile radius of the location. The charges are wide ranging for these offenders. The crimes they’ve committed range from “child molestation in the first degree” to “communications with a minor for immoral purposes” to “lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years.” With “Safe Neighborhood,” users can see the mugshots of accused sex offenders in list form — and a description of their crimes.

The app backs up numbers provided by the Federal Way Police Department. According to the department, there are 240 registered sex offenders living in Federal Way. Of those 240 offenders, 186 are listed as level 1, 38 are considered level 2 offenders, and 11 qualify for the level 3 classification (level 3 indicates the highest risk of re-offending). Bringing the total to 240 are five offenders who were charged with kidnapping.

Currently, 19 of the 240 offenders properly registered within Federal Way are listed as having a transient status. Offenders listed as transient are required to undergo a rigorous check in procedure. As they are in the transient status, offenders must check in with King County once a week. If they don’t, the offenders receive a “failed to register” status and open themselves up to more legal troubles.

In charge of making sure this troublesome group behaves while living in Federal Way is police detective Bill Skinner. A large chunk of his work is spent doing checkups on offenders.

The levels described above essentially help law enforcement determine an offender’s threat to the community and likelihood of re-offending. Level 1 offenders — the lowest security threat as determined by state guidelines — require Skinner to annually check up on them at their last known residence. Level two offenders require a twice yearly checkup, and level three offenders — the most dangerous and likely to re-offend — are checked on by Skinner every three months.

Skinner is aware of the smartphone apps, and feels they are a useful tool for parents and families.

“It’s just an easy way for us to check on them and find out who’s in the neighborhood,” Skinner said. “They allow the citizens to be informed at a moment’s notice.”

As the school year winds down and children start playing outside more, the risk of children and offenders coming into contact increases. Skinner gives a simple piece of advice for parents and caregivers: “Just always be aware of your surroundings.”

Learn more

The King County Sheriff’s Office provides the OffenderWatch service online. Enter any address in King County to view information on the offenders within the specified radius of that address. The county offers an email alert system for those interested in monitoring any new sex offender registrations near a specific address.


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