What should I do if a sex offender lives in my apartment complex?

Dear Stop It Now!

I just found out that there is a registered sex offender living in my apartment complex. I have a 5 year old and an 8 year old. I am very concerned. I don’t want anything to happen to my children. What can I do?

Dear Concerned Adult,

I can certainly understand feeling scared and anxious after hearing that a registered sex offender is living in your apartment complex. Finding out more information about a particular person’s case, supervision and support may help diminish those feelings and may help you to realize that the situation is manageable. Please read our prevention tip sheet,  Concerned about Sex Offenders in Your Neighborhood?

Getting more information

Look for more information about this offender. If there was a public notice, ask the contact person or organization on the notice for additional details and attend the public community notification meeting if there is one. You can also contact this person’s parole officer. The local police should be able give you the parole officer’s information. Find out about the risk level, restrictions, and how this person will be supervised in the community. You may also want to find if this person is participating in treatment.

Safety Planning

Every family should Create a family safety plan. Your children and your family need to know what to do if anyone—family,friend, acquaintance, neighbor, or stranger—is approaching a child sexually. Remember, abuse is most likely to happen with someone you already know. The fact is that your safety action plans for your family and community are the same whether or not you’ve been notified about someone with an offense in your community.

If you know what to look for and how to take action, people who sexually abuse children will not have access to them. Their abusive behavior can be stopped when we are all aware and willing to speak up, and they can get help to prevent further abuse.

Talking with this adult

If circumstances seem right, think about joining with another neighbor to speak with the individual. Remember, you may already know this person and their family, or they may be a new member of your community.  You can let them know that you are aware of their past and of their actions of today while showing them your support for their willingness to live a different life that keeps children safe. Read Michael’s Story of Neighborhood Action for an example of how a community dealt with a sex offender in their community.

Responding to warning signs

If you do observe any concerning behaviors, notify the police. Trust your instincts while staying calm. If your neighbors have any concerns or observations, perhaps you can work together so that no one person is feeling the burden of  having to be the only responsible for safety. You may want to review our Warning Signs, paying particular attention to Behaviors to watch for when adults are with children and Signs that an adult may be at risk to harm a child from our Online Help Center.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 23rd, 2012