AUSTIN – As the 2017-18 school year gets into full swing, state and local law enforcement officials are reminding parents, teachers, friends and neighbors to renew their vigilance against potential child predators.

In an effort to keep the public involved in keeping their children safe, the Texas Department of Public Safety has created searches for the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry on its website, www.dps.texas.gov. These databases allow the public to search the registry for sex offenders registered in Texas. Searches may be made with a registrant's name, location and through institutions of higher learning.

“We get a lot of calls from concerned citizens,” Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said. “The DPS's website is an invaluable tool for citizens. It's also the first place we go to check someone out, especially when we get calls from the public.”

As of this month, there are 147 registered sex offenders, including four females, living in Cherokee County, including 83 in Jacksonville; 46 in Troup; 23 each in Bullard and Rusk; seven in Alto; six in Wells; and two in New Summerfield.

By state law, convicted sex offenders are required to register annually with the local law enforcement agency where they reside or plan to reside. Local law enforcement agencies submit all sex offender registration information to the TxDPS, which includes that data in its Sex Offender Database. Any information provided through this website is open record, according to the DPS website.

“However, it is your [the public's] responsibility to make sure the record you access through this site pertain to the person about whom you are seeking information. Extreme care should be exercised in using any information obtained from this website. Anyone who uses any information on this website to injure, harass, or for any other unlawful purpose may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability.”

When officials receive notice a convicted sex offender intends to move to a new address, DPS officials will provide written notice in English and Spanish to the immediate community where the sex offender intends to reside.

“Notice usually comes in the form of a post card mailed or delivered to each physical address (not post office boxes) within a three-block to one-mile radius of where the offender intends to live,” the DPS website states. “The Texas Sex Offender Registration Program itself does not prohibit registered sex offenders from living or going near places frequented by children, however, Texas community supervision and parole laws, as well as city ordinances, may require the imposition of a "child safety zone.” A "child safety zone" prohibits certain individuals from going in, on, or within a specified distance of a premise where children commonly gather, such as schools, day care facilities, or playgrounds. A violation of the "child safety zone" can result in the revocation of the offender’s probation or parole, or a citation.”

Texas DPS has also created a notification system that allows the public to subscribe to email notifications regarding database changes relating to registered sex offenders.

Of the six categories of sex crimes the state of Texas collects offense data on, four specifically concern crimes against children, including continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children; indecency with a child by contact; indecency with a child by exposure; and sexual performance by a child, according to the state's 2015 Uniform Crime Report (the most recent report available).

The state began implementing its sex offender registration laws Sept. 1, 1991.

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