St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said a newly-launched app, OffenderWatch Safe Virtual Neighborhood, will help deter child sex offenders and provide parents “some peace of mind” about what their children are doing online.
“Parents are craving this kind of stuff,” Champagne said. “I think a lot of parents have no idea what their kids are doing on those cellphones. Kids are living online, and unfortunately sexual predators do it, too.”
Champagne said the sheriffs’ association and other law enforcement groups, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, consulted on the app’s development and provided feedback on the growing danger online solicitation poses to minors.
The app screens communications on a child’s phone and alerts parents if a phone number or email address belonging to a registered sex offender has contacted their child through social media, text or email. It will also notify parents if the child’s device stays near the address of a sex offender for an extended amount of time. The app can be purchased for $9.99 from Android or Apple app stores.
Champagne said the app will help make children safer.
Offenders regularly attempt to contact children online for “illicit meeting for immoral purposes dangerous to these minors,” Champagne said. Though the app has a cost, it’s worth preventing possible harm, he said.
“Online safety is a huge problem today,” Champagne said. “Parents need to be vigilant of what websites their children are visiting and educate their children about not talking to strangers online. I’m proud that Louisiana is the first state to offer families and individuals a better way to stay protected from online predators.”
Champagne said Safe Virtual Neighborhood is the only online sex offender safety app partnered with law enforcement.
“It’s using data and information the public can trust,” he said. “For you to be able to get a text that your 12-year-old has been contacted by a sex offender, how can you put a price on that?”
Safe Virtual Neighborhood
- The app monitors Snapchat, texts, emails, GPS location, and phone calls and will send an alert to parents or guardians if a sex offender contacts the child’s device, or if the device stays near the address of a sex offender for an extended amount of time.
- The Crimes Against Children Research Center says one in five teens has received unwanted sexual solicitation online.