What would you do if a known sex offender moved into your neighborhood? That happened recently to someone I know here in the Triad. She and her family moved across town a few years ago into a neighborhood they’ve always aspired to be a part of – one filled with lots of kids, great neighbors, nice homes, manicured lawns, and one that’s part of a great school zone. And while they are mindful of keeping an eye on their kids playing outside, one of the last things they thought they’d have to worry about is a convicted felon living down the street.

It doesn’t matter that her neighborhood is within one mile of a school and a church and ball fields – or that the offender doesn’t own the house he’s living in – or that he is staying in a house right next to a busy school bus stop – or that he moved across state lines after his conviction. According to the law, none of that matters when an offender moves in with a relative – which is the case for my friend. In fact, he’s welcome to stay as long as he wants. Even the entire 10 years he is on probation for his offense, or longer. Lucky guy.

Let me add in that offender is not a suspect; he was indeed arrested for the crime he was accused of and is now on probation. However, there are always lots of sides to every story, and we also know that people can mature and change after making a mistake. My friend and her neighbors did not want to make a mountain out of a molehill and of course wanted to give this person a fair chance, but as a parent, you can never be too careful.

And as a careful parent, one of the first things my friend did when she moved into her neighborhood was to check the NC Sex Offender Registry. With a great sigh of relief (although at the time she wasn’t surprised) no registered offenders lived nearby. There were some on the radar, but they were not within walking distance to/from her home. She never thought to check it again.

But her neighbor subscribes to email alerts, and received notification within 24 hours when the sex offender moved into her neighborhood. I did not even know that feature existed and made sure to sign myself up so I could be on guard too! The neighbor shared the news with other fellow neighbors, and within another 24 hours a neighborhood watch meeting was pulled together (and included a representative from the local police department’s sexual offender unit) to discuss options and safety precautions.

Sadly, there is not much they can do. Several of her neighbors are checking to see if they can have the school bus stop moved to different location. Some shared the online mug shots with their children, while others had the “talk” with their kids way sooner than they had planned to.

My friend said she’s been living with the same kind of yucky feeling you get when you know your house has been burglarized. You feel violated and you walk around with a stronger sense of being “on guard.” Life continues as usual, and her kids continue to play outside, but she says that something just feels different.

She’s thankful her neighbor had been alerted by the registry in the first place, but knows the same kind of guy could be sitting next to her and her family in church – or shopping in the same aisle at the grocery store – and there’s no instant notification for that.

Has this happened to you or someone you know? What was the outcome? And when was the last time you checked the NC Sex Offender Registry?