GIS tools keep Arizona residents aware of sex offenders

Arizona's Public Safety Department is giving the state's residents ready access to the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders.

Deployed in January 2000, Arizona's sex offender Web site, at www.azsexoffender.org, receives 30,000 hits each month, said Val Biebrich, supervisor in the department's sex offender division.

The division used geographic information system tools from MapInfo Corp. of Troy, N.Y., to let citizens check the locations of convicted sex offenders in their area.

The site lets visitors enter an address'their home, or a school or day care center, for example'and in seconds the site will send back a hyperlinked list of convicted sex offenders and their addresses.

Click on a name, and the site serves up a page of information on the offender, including a color photo in JPEG format, the person's risk level, specific offenses and a map of the offender's neighborhood. Only sex offenders classified as Level 2, intermediate risk, or Level 3, high risk, are required by Arizona's version of Megan's Law to be posted on the site.

The map indicates the sex offender's address by a red icon, and shows nearby schools with a blue square and day care centers with a green diamond. Visitors can also zoom out on the map to see other neighborhoods.

'Everybody really likes the fact that we have deployed a mapping component that is interactive,' Biebrich said.

Updated daily, the site lets visitors bring up a more detailed map by clicking on one of the icons. Zoomable to a three-mile diameter, the site uses an IBM DB2 database, Netfinity Web server and a Websphere application server.

'People send us e-mail to try to help us locate absconders,' Biebrich said.

According to a study conducted this year by Parents for Megan's Law, a national child-safety group based in Stony Brook, N.Y., 6 percent of Arizona's sex offenders have not complied with state registration requirements. The national average for noncompliance is 24 percent.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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