Justice sex offender Web site goes live

The Justice Department has launched a Web site that allows the public to search for sex offenders in their communities. The National Sex Offender Public Registry (http://www.nsopr.gov), run by the Office of Justice Programs, can return a list of registered sex offenders through name, city, county or ZIP code searches.

The Web site, which went live late last month, is unusual in that all the basic data is not housed by Justice. Rather it resides on Web sites run by the participating states, according to Domingo Herraiz, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

“This distributed model of information sharing is something relatively new,” Herraiz said. “The states maintain the records. All we’re doing is connecting in a single portal all the records that are out there and publicly available.”

When requested by a user, the sex offender data is routed to the site using the Global Justice Extensible Markup Language Data Model. Global JXDM is a data reference model developed by Justice to exchange information within the justice and public-safety communities.

The site, which cost a little less than $1 million to initiate and run, was funded by the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant Program, a federal funding initiative named after a New York City police officer murdered by drug dealers.

“The primary [purpose of the site is] to share the information that is readily available to increase the sense of safety and safety itself in [the] community,” Herraiz said. According to Justice, there are more than 500,000 registered sex offenders nationwide.

Although many states also offer their own Web-based directories, the national portal offers a number of advantages, Herraiz said. The domain name “nospr.gov” may be easier to remember than a longer state-based address. It also may be particularly useful for individuals living near state lines, for instance, who would otherwise have to check two or even three registries. (Before the Web, concerned citizens had to call their local police stations or state-sponsored 800 numbers to find such information).

The site doesn’t offer information for all states—initially 22 states signed on, including Louisiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Nebraska. Justice is asking for other states to join, and since the site went live, many have shown an interest, Herraiz said. Also, the site only lists those offenders who have registered their addresses with the police as required by law.

Within the first week of going live, the site has had 40 million hits. About 150 other Web sites set up links to the site as well, Herraiz added.

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