COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association today unveiled a new reverse lookup feature accessible through the Electronic Sex Offender Registration and Notification (eSORN) Database, which is maintained by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The new feature allows anyone to input unfamiliar phone numbers, email addresses, social media screen names, and video game handles into the database to try to determine if they belong to a registered sex offender in Ohio.
“In this age of technology, knowing which sex offenders live in your neighborhood isn’t always enough,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Digital communication allows people to break geographical boundaries, and sexual predators can use this to their advantage to pose as peers and develop cyber friendships with unsuspecting children. The new reverse lookup feature is just another tool that parents can use to screen who their children are communicating with.”
Registered sex offenders in Ohio are required by law to register their home address, work address, and vehicle information with their local sheriff’s office to be publicly accessible through the eSORN database. Each of Ohio’s 88 county sheriff offices input the information into the system. Supplemental information, such as phone numbers, email addresses, screen names, and handles are also required, but are not public.
The reverse lookup feature now allows members of the public to input phone numbers, email addresses and internet names into the eSORN database and an alert will be displayed if the information is associated with a registered sex offender. While the reverse lookup feature will not publically identify the offender who registered the information, it will direct the individual to immediately contact the local sheriff’s office or the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). Each sheriff’s office will decide the next step.
“Each local sheriff’s office will take the information that is provided and determine what type of follow up investigation is needed,” said Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer, the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association SORN Committee Chairman. “If the information you enter does not come back to a registered sex offender, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person behind the phone number, email, or social media name is harmless. Parents still need to be cautious about who their kids are talking to in general.”
“With nearly 18,000 registered sex offenders living in Ohio, we believe this is very a useful tool,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Chances are you wouldn’t let a stranger in your home. So, parents need to keep communicating with their kids about letting strangers – virtual ones – in their circle of friends. This is also a useful feature for adults as well to know who they are communicating with.”
The Crimes Against Children Unit at the Ohio Attorney General’s BCI assisted 73 law enforcement agencies last year in 125 cases involving crimes against children. The Unit assists local law enforcement in a variety of investigations including child sexual abuse, child pornography, online enticement, and human trafficking.
Ohio is one of only eight states that offers this new sex offender reverse lookup feature.
The eSORN database can be accessed via the Attorney General’s website at www.icrimewatch.net/index.php?AgencyID=55149&disc= or through the website of all 88 county sheriff’s offices.