You hear the term 'sex offender' thrown around all the time, but do you really know what it means.
Sex offenders are people who have been convicted of a "criminal offense against a minor" or a "sexually violent offense."
There are over a half million registered sex offenders in this country.
However, that's only the offenders that are registered.
Here is the scary part. We have no idea where 100,000 of those are currently living. That's because some sex offenders slip through the system's cracks and find ways to make it off the registry.
David Dunn is all too familiar with sex offenders. He is a detective at the Bowling Green Police Department. He spends much of his time checking up on local sex offenders. "I try to check in with everybody over a two month period, do about half of them one month and the other half the next month and make sure they're where they say they are," he says.
The state of Kentucky operates its own website for tracking sex offenders.
Sex offenders are either placed on the website for the rest of their lives or for 10 years following their incarceration.
"If you're a lifetime registrant they mail out something four times a year, once every three months. It's a registered mailing. They're supposed to sign off on it, basically stating they're where they say they are," Dunn explains.
A 10-year registrant only gets that mailing once a year, which sometimes creates a loophole in the system.
"If you're a lifetime registrant, you could be gone three to four months before anybody knew about it, especially if you're a 10-year registrant, you can be gone up to a year," says Dunn.
"I think there are definitely some loopholes that we run into," says Tim Coleman, who is the Commonwealth Attorney for Butler, Edmonson, Ohio, and Hancock County.
He sees his share of sexual assault cases. "It's one of the hardest areas to cover or to handle as a prosecutor," he says.
Like Dunn, Coleman says there are some loopholes in the way sex offenders are tracked.
Much of this confusion comes from the fact that each state has its own set of guidelines.
Dunn says he has seen occasions where people have left one state where they are registered as a sex offender and then moved to another state where they either don't register again or don't have to register again.
"I've had a couple of occasions where people have left Kentucky, gone to Tennessee for example, and Tennessee researched their particular crime. Based upon what they did in the other state, wherever it was, they found they didn't have to register with them. Those kinds of things exist out there and I think those kinds of loopholes need to be closed," says Dunn.
Coleman says a national law rather than the current state-to-state laws could keep up with these offenders more accurately.
"The more it's uniform, the easier it will be for the offenders to understand and also us in prosecution to enforce," says Coleman.
"A standardization would let people know that are on the registry how to play by the rules. The way it is now, state-to-states have different sets of rules and you can basically go shopping if you wanted to find a place where the rules aren't as strict," says Dunn.
Coming up Tuesday in "Protecting the Children," we'll take a look at a recent national act that was signed for sex offenders to protect your children and at Kentucky's new sex offender law.
Meanwhile, Detective Dunn points out not everyone on the sex offender registry is a pedophile and that it is the public’s responsibility to check out the registry online to determine what kind of crimes these people were involved in.
"The strongest thing is people taking responsibility to know who's on the registry and who's living in their neighborhood," says Dunn.
There is a national alert line that you can call to be notified when a sex offender moves into your area.
You can call 1-866-564-5652 and provide your telephone number and up to three zip codes to monitor.
As soon as the Kentucky State Police receive notice that a registered offender is moving into one of the zip codes that you entered, you will receive a notification call, which will direct you to the Kentucky State Police Sex Offender Registry Website.