Columbus -- Ohioans can now search suspect email addresses, phone numbers and online usernames to determine whether they belong to one of close to 18,000 registered sex offenders in the state.
Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the new setup July 3, adding the feature to his office's existing sex offender website.
Ohio is one of more than half a dozen states now also offering the reverse lookup option.
"In this age of technology, knowing which sex offenders live in your neighborhood isn't always enough," DeWine said. "Digital communications allow people to break geographical boundaries, and sexual predators can use this to their advantage to pose as peers and develop cyber friendships with unsuspecting children."
The website (available online at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov) allows users to search by offender name, address and city and to list those who are not in compliance with registration requirements.
With the new reverse lookup, users can type in a phone number, email address or online name, including those used when playing online games. If one matches information filed by a sex offender, users will be directed to contact law enforcement to investigate.
The system will not identify offenders who have not provided their phone and computer user information as required when they register, nor will it search for out-of-state offenders.
But DeWine said the system can be a valuable tool for parents wanting to make sure people in contact with their children electronically or those who develop online friendships with adults are not sexual offenders.
"This feature is just one more tool to help us identify people who may be attempting to communicate with children or persons that they are prohibited from contacting," said Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer, who was on hand for the July 3 press conference in Columbus. "
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.