Family Watchdog is a free service that allows people to easily map registered sex offenders living in their area. Even though sex offender registries exist, some people may not be aware of the offenders living in their area. By entering an address or the name of a school or day care, users can view a map that shows the names, photos, and addresses of nearby sex offenders, as well as color coded markers that indicate the type of crime they committed. Users also have the option of signing up for email safety alerts.
The site was started in 2005, and it makes information from sex offender registries readily available and searchable for anyone. Family Watchdog also offers vital knowledge about the nature of the sexual offenses, as well as practical tips to keep yourself and your family safe. According to the site, 60% of abusers are known to the family of the victim, like a family friend or babysitter. About 30% of sex abusers are actually related to the victim, and sex offenses by strangers only make up about 10% of sex crimes.
Parents and caregivers may find Family Watchdog particularly useful in helping them make safety decisions for kids, like what route their kids take walking to school or whether or not playing at a friend’s house is safe. The site is also a great tool if you’re looking to move into a new neighborhood, trying to decide on a new school or daycare, or wondering about the risks of crime in a new area.
- Easy to use: Family Watchdog is intuitive to use, and provides maps and other information that are easy to read. The site isn’t littered with disruptive or obstructive ads, like some other sites are.
- Focused and helpful: Family Watchdog serves a specific function—to provide important information about sex offenders—and it does it well. It not only provides data on nearby sex offenders, but also offers statistics on sex abuse and advice on how to keep your family safe.
- No cost: Family Watchdog’s features are all free to use. Users can also sign up for free safety alerts via email.
- No real-time updates: Family Watchdog relies on sex offender registries, which can be slow to update, so changes in the locations of offenders won’t always be immediately reflected on the maps.
- Limited reports: Family Watchdog lists offenses a criminal has been charged with, but does not include full crime reports or background checks on individuals. On the site, users can find the option to pay for a background check from a third party source.
Things to Consider
Family Watchdog is a tool for those who are concerned about their proximity to registered sex offenders. To use Family Watchdog, you simply need to enter an address, the name of a school or child care facility, or a particular name. The site will create a map based on the information provided that shows different icons at the locations of nearby offenders. The icons are color-coded to represent different types of crimes, such as red for a crime against a child or yellow for sexual assault. Clicking on a particular icon will give you the offender’s name, a mugshot if one is available, their address, and a list of their charges.
Family Watchdog is free to use. The site gets information about local offenders via official public records and sex offender registries. Convicted sex offenders are required to update their whereabouts to these registries through local law enforcement. Even though the information comes from official listings, Family Watchdog cautions users that it cannot guarantee the accuracy of all information found on the site. For example, if an offender moves and does not update their address through the proper channels, Family Watchdog has no way of knowing.
Family Watchdog offers the opportunity to sign up for free email alerts to learn when a new offender moves into your area. The site also offers safety information, such as FDA alerts on product and medicine recalls. The website doesn’t map all types of crime. It focuses specifically sex offenses, and includes some violent and drug-related offenses, but it’s not a comprehensive look at all the crime in a particular area. Those looking to keep an eye on general crime stats or other trends and information related to their neighborhood or town will need to utilize other sources.
Family Watchdog is listed as one of the picks in our list of best crime maps & apps
The Bottom Line
No one likes the idea of living near potential predators, but awareness is the first step towards keeping your family safe, and Family Watchdog provides that. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some other crime sites, but it excels at what it aims to do: map sex offenses and other violent crimes, and keep people in the know about local offenders. Family Watchdog gives people the ability to make smarter decisions about where they live, work, and go to school. It also helps parents and caregivers modify the precautions they take to protect young kids. Ultimately, knowledge is power, and this free resource offers that benefit to anyone who uses it.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.