Antioch police adopt online sex offender search system

Antioch residents can now map sex offender and predator information through a new online service introduced by the police department.

The system, called OffenderWatch, allows citizens to look up an address and see a map and listing of all offenders within a radius of up to two miles. The information is automatically updated in real time using information forwarded from the Antioch Police Department's records.

“The key to success in law enforcement is working with the community because we can't be everywhere at once,” Chief Craig Somerville said. “They can help us to make sure we're being accountable.”

Somerville said he heard about the idea two months ago and wanted to implement the system “for the safety of the citizens.”

The site was tested Friday, he said, and it was well received on the department's social media.

OffenderWatch is a national service used by more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies across the country. That includes half of the Illinois county sheriff's offices and police departments, according to an Antioch Police news release.

Citizens have the option to register addresses within a chosen radius, and they will receive email alerts of any updates from police.

Registration is free and confidential, and there is no limit on how many addresses a person can register.

Somerville said the system is for general precaution and is not in response to any changes in sexual crime trends, which he added have been mostly consistent.

Somerville said OffenderWatch and other programs, such as Neighborhood Watch, are ways for Antioch police to keep citizens informed.

“This just adds to the toolbox,” he said.

The system also has the potential to aid police. Somerville said it be used to monitor violations of sex offender safety buffers near schools, day care centers and parks. It can assist the department in planning compliance checks on offenders.

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