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Ohio policy expands parents' view of online sex predators

The Internet has a distinction perhaps of being what authorities call the epitome of the "21st-century crime scene." That is particularly true when it comes to instances of alleged predatory sexual behavior toward juveniles. So much can happen behind the shield of the electronic curtain.

According to law enforcement, this kind of activity has for years involved possible predators trolling for young victims in the broad pool of the Internet. But officials say that more recently, offenders have taken a more focused approach, using the environment of online gaming to hunt, remaining anonymous behind fake names or online identities known as "gamertags."

In response to this development, Ohio's attorney general recently announced that the state's Electronic Sex Offender Registration and Notification database has been improved to include a multi-purpose reverse look-up feature. With the change, say officials, the public can now search to see if a phone number, email address, gamertag or other social-media screen name may be associated with one of the 18,000 individuals currently registered.

Obviously, this new access raises questions about whether personal privacy of those listed in the database isn't being violated. Authorities insist, though, that if a search links to someone in the registry, the user won't get access to any personal information.

What they will see is an alert recommending that authorities be called. And from there, an investigation could be launched which might result in sex crime charges being brought.

No one would suggest that police should be anything less than vigilant in trying to stem sex crimes, especially where protecting juveniles is concerned. However, with new access to information comes the heightened potential of personal liberties being eroded.

Just as with any criminal charge, someone facing a sex crime charge has a right to due process under the law. And to be sure that is protected anyone charged should contact a skilled defense attorney.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Phone numbers, email addresses, gamertags added to sex offender database," Alan Johnson, July 4, 2014 

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