New way to fight sexual predators

Sexual predators are crafty in the extreme, and that is a special worry to parents trying to safeguard their children. Now, Ohioans have a new weapon in that fight. It is something West?Virginia officials should consider.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a new state program that uses technology against convicted sex offenders who attempt to find new victims.

Both Ohio and West Virginia already have detailed lists of sex offenders, available online. Names, offenses and information on residences is available.

Now, Ohioans will be able to use their state’s sex offender database to learn whether phone numbers, email addresses or “screen names” used online belong to convicted sex offenders. Those using the database simply enter phone numbers, email addresses or screen names they want to check, then wait a few seconds for the database to reveal whether there is a match.

If those conducting searches find matches, they are told they should contact their county sheriff or the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Searchers are not given the names of sex offenders whose information matches.

As DeWine noted, the search function is far from a fail-safe technique. It can only use phone numbers, etc., that authorities know are used by those on the sex offender registry. Many sexual predators switch phone numbers and use different email addresses and screen names.

Still, the new tool is a step forward. It may help some Ohioans learn whether people they are in contact with are more dangerous than they admit.

Only eight states, counting Ohio, use the technique. West Virginia officials should consider making our state the ninth.