State's sex offender site gets upgrade
BISMARCK - North Dakotans can now find out in seconds if a high-risk sex offender lives within a half mile of their house or their kids' school. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem unveiled a new version of his sex offender Web site on Thursday and ...
BISMARCK - North Dakotans can now find out in seconds if a high-risk sex offender lives within a half mile of their house or their kids' school.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem unveiled a new version of his sex offender Web site on Thursday and showed how it can pinpoint offenders' locations with an interactive map.
Also for the first time, the public will have instant access to all 968 sex offenders registered in the state, even those who are low- and medium-risk.
Stenehjem first launched the site in 2001. It allowed Internet visitors to view a list of high-risk and lifetime-registered North Dakota sex offenders. Currently 285 men are in those categories.
The site was upgraded last year to allow users to sign up for e-mail alerts when sex offenders move.
The list of all 800 to 900 registered sex offenders has always been a public record, but until now the only way the public could see it was to ask the attorney general's office or the Bureau of Criminal Investigation for it.
Stenehjem said the new version of the site contains a link called "offenders near me." Users can type in any address, such as their home, their child's school or grandparents' homes and see a list of offenders within a half mile, one mile or up to a five-mile radius. They'll get a list of nearby offenders' names, addresses, photos and information about their crimes. Then, by clicking on a "map all" link, the site pinpoints the locations.
Stenehjem said he has always believed the North Dakota Web site was among the best such sites in the country.
Stenehjem said an important feature since the site was launched almost six years ago is its description of offenders' crimes in plain language instead of legal terms.
Bismarck Police Chief Deborah Ness and officer Randy Ziegler praised the site. Ness said it is an important tool in notifying victims when sex offenders move.
"It's real user-friendly," Ziegler said. He coordinates sex offender registration in Bismarck. "I thought the old site was good. This is better."
The Web site's address formerly was www.ndsexoffender.com and is now changed to www.sexoffender.nd.gov . The old address still works.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830