Eleven year-old Zachary spends most afternoons playing basketball outside his south Lubbock home but he's always aware of his surroundings. Zachary's mother Minerva Gaona says, "We always tell him to make sure you look behind you. Someone may be following you and you're not aware."
Gaona finds extra protection in websites that keep track of sex offenders. She says, "I wanted to look at it to see who all lives within the neighborhood and see if a sex offender is close by." She goes to Family Watchdog and maps out the area bringing up 185 sex offenders but only one lives less than a mile from her home. The site also maps the distance between sex offenders, schools and playgrounds. It even gives you the option of email notification if a sex offender moves into your neighborhood.
Family Watchdog President and C.E.O. Steve Roddel says he created what he considers a user friendly site. Roddel says, "They really don't have perspective until you see a map with 1,000 dots and in the center is where you live."
But just how accurate is the information? NewsChannel 11 cross referenced the sex offenders listed on Family WatchDog with the Lubbock Police Department website . We found 25 sex offenders listed on Family Watchdog that weren't listed on the police department website and six registered with police that weren't on Family Watchdog.
Roddell tells NewsChannel 11 that Family Watchdog gets its information from the state registry. In Texas, that's the Department of Public Safety. We checked out the information and found four sex offenders not on Family Watch under an aliases on the DPS website. DPS Public Information officer Tela Mange says, "We have a secure website where agencies can submit and update information or they also have option of mailing it in." Mange says the state relies on local agencies to send them data.
Coporal Mark Long registers sex offenders in Lubbock with the police department. He says, "Anytime in a week we may have five to ten people changing their home addresses or register. In a one week period you may have ten new addresses that have sex offenders and ten that don't have sex offenders anymore." Long says sex offenders are often transient and the changes aren't limited to their address. Gaona says, "On the Lubbock Police Department website it gave pictures showing someone wearing glasses, not wearing glasses, long hair short hair. It's really handy." New photos are taken anytime an officer notices changes. That's just one reason Corporal Long says, "Right now, the most accurate website is our website."
Long checked on the discrepancies and found the 25 names missing from the police website. Six are the same people but often go by alias. Four have met parole requirements and are no longer required to register. Seven have moved out of the city limits. Six are now in jail and two have failed to register since moving. Other sites may experience delays because local agencies get the information first, update it and then distribute it. Long says, "The state has certain rules and criteria they follow before they post it on their websites." Depending on the sex offender the transition could be automatic or it could take some time to update.
Mange urges parents to protect and teach their children at all times. She says, "I would urge parents not to rely only on a list for the safety of their children. It's a fabulous tool as far as it goes but just because it appears there are no sex offenders on your block, doesn't mean their aren't sex offenders."
Parents like Gaona say these sites do offer piece of mind. She says, "It makes me feel good as a parent because at least there's someone out there to do something to help."
The Lubbock Police Department is revamping its website and within the next six months you should see new interactive mapping features like the one you saw with Family Watchdog. Each site offers interesting and unique features. To visit Family Watchdog, ( click here ). To see the Lubbock Police website, ( click here ) and to go to the state registry with the Texas Department of Public Safety, ( click here ).
Meanwhile, one man has failed to register as a sex offender. He's on Lubbock's Most Wanted List. His name is Jerbacio Rodriguez and he is a 45-year-old Hispanic Male. If you have any information, you're asked to call the sex offender unit at the Lubbock Police Department. That number is (806) 775-2738.
|NewsChannel 11 Special Reports|