Parents worried about sexual offenders have a new tool for when they're not at their computers: an iPhone app developed by a Longwood, Fla., company.
Sex Offender Search, a $1.99 application for the Apple iPhone released last week, lets you bring up a map showing all the registered sex offenders near your current location, an address in your contacts or any other address. Tapping on one of the red pins on the map brings up the sex offender's name, address, photo, description of their charges and other details.
"If you are in the park taking a picnic with your kids, you can just open the app, the GPS tells you where you are, and you can see offenders around you," said Roberto Franceschetti, 41, one of the program's creators, whose company, LogSat Software, also sells anti-spam software. "You can also see their pictures, so you know who to look out for. If you are driving around looking for houses, and you see something that interests you, you can see if there are offenders nearby."
Since the app went on sale last week, it has been purchased about 3,500 times, Franceschetti said. Since Apple keeps 30 percent of every sale, the company has earned about $5,000.
The app covers all 50 states and it includes information about 400,000 offenders, which the Longwood, Fla., company acquired from a third party. So far, the data has not been updated, but Franceschetti said he plans to update it at least once month and possibly more often.
A future version will include the ability to get a notification on your iPhone when a new sex offender moves in nearby.
Sex Offender Search is not the only iPhone app that lets you use your phone to find search offenders nearby. A 99-cent app called "Offender Locator" was released a few months before Franceschetti's and it's currently the fourth-most-popular paid app in the entire store, which has more than 60,000 free and paid apps. Sex Offender Search is not even in the top 100 paid apps.
The apps have caused some controversy because some claim that having sex offender information so easily available could encourage people to confront them. "I don't think the iPhone app itself will be a problem because all the states make the data free and available, so if someone is looking for this kind of data to do harm to a sex offender, they can already go to the Web sites and find this for free," Franceschetti said.
Kristen Perezluha, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state agency in charge of Florida's sex offender list, said she didn't know enough about Sex Offender Search to comment on it.
She said since many sex offenders move around a lot, people will get the most up-to-date Florida information at offender.fdle.state.fl.us. The FDLE site also lets you set up e-mail notifications to be alerted when a new sex offender moves into your neighborhood.
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