Avondale is the second police department in the Southwest Valley to switch to a Web-based program that streamlines the tracking of sex offenders and the community-notification process.
OffenderWatch enables police to better monitor sex offenders living in the city and alert the public when an offender moves in. It also allows residents to research offenders in their area on the public website.
Avondale police started using the program in January and launched its public website last month. The Goodyear Police Department switched to the program in October and launched its website in late January.
Avondale's sex-offender-notification Detective K. Ann Baker said 80 to 90 percent of Avondale residents have a registered sex offender living within 1 mile of their home. OffenderWatch will help keep them informed of who is living close by, she said.People can search addresses to see how many sex offenders live within a 2-mile radius, view information on individual offenders and sign up to receive e-mail alerts when an offender moves nearby.
"It's an awesome tool for parents and educators alike," Baker said. "It's easy for them to look up and see and be informed of who's living in their community and where they are in relation to their family."
According to state law, when a sex offender moves, he or she is required to register with the county sheriff's office, which notifies by mail the city where the offender has moved. The city police department then collects police, court and prison records and interviews the offender to assess a risk level. Once a level is assigned, the department must notify the public of the offender's presence.
Sex offenders are classified into low-, moderate and high-risk levels. Police are required to notify the community when a moderate- or high-risk offender moves into the city.
There are eight high-risk, 13 moderate-risk and 11 low-risk offenders in Avondale, Baker said.
OffenderWatch streamlines the notification and assessment process because police are notified electronically as soon as an offender registers with the county, Baker said. This allows police to notify residents more quickly when an offender moves in nearby.
The records-management system also makes it easier for police to maintain accurate information on sex offenders, who tend to move often. When new information is entered into the system, it is updated instantaneously on the public website.
Another benefit, Baker said, is that all the information is shared among law-enforcement agencies that use the program, which saves time for departments when an offender moves to their city, and it makes it easier for officers to check an offender's possible involvement in crimes.
"It's a wonderful database," Baker said. "It's very thorough; it's very easy to use and it's very user-friendly and it's shareable."
Avondale residents can access the website from a link on the Police Department's website: http://www.avondale.org/index.aspx?nid=78. For questions, contact Baker at 623-333-7414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.