Apps to protect your child during Halloween
How well do you know the people who live in the neighborhood where your kids will be trick-or-treating? Maybe not as well as you think you do. Convicted sex offenders live in peaceful neighborhoods in every city and while some states forbid them from participating in Halloween activities such as trick-or-treating, there isn't anything to stop someone from knocking on their door and shouting 'trick or treat.’
Parents who are concerned about that type of thing should take a look at a couple of apps in the app stores that will identify every home occupied by someone convicted of a sex crime.
Offender Locator has been around for a few years and is well respected and reviewed by parents. The app searches the federal and state databases of sex offender registries and places that information on a map. When you open it, be ready for a shock. The app places a pin on every address where offenders are registered and it is surprising, to say the least at how many offenders are living in neighborhoods possibly near you.
By tapping on one of the pins, you will see information on the person living there. Name, address, age, a mug shot, whether they have any tattoos or facial hair as well as a brief description of the crime they were convicted. The database is updated daily. The app is free for both iPhones and Android devices but for $1.99 you can get a premium version that sends proximity alerts when you approach a home or neighborhood where a sex offender resides.
New versions of the app also use facial recognition software that allows users to upload a photograph and be matched with anyone fitting that description. I didn't find that feature to be effective and there are certainly some concerns over whether that feature could unfairly link someone to a crime they did not commit.
Life 360 was one of the first family safety apps for smartphones that allows users to set up a family group to stay in constant contact. Its chief feature is a panic button where, if anyone in the group feels unsafe, they can press a button and instantly alert everyone else in the group of their whereabouts.
Premium versions of the app also have collision detection so if a person in the group is in a car accident, the app will immediately notify members of the group along with the exact location of the accident. Life 360 also includes crime reports for neighborhoods and you can search for offenders in any area. Like with Offender Locator, Life 360 places a pin or dot on every residence where a convicted sex offender lives. The information on the person, however, is not as detailed as I found in Offender Locator.
Life 360 also has a premium feature that allows parents to set up a safe trick-or-treating perimeter. If someone in the group leaves the area, a notification is sent to others in the group along with location information.
Life 360 is a free app but premium versions cost $2.99 and $7.99 a month.