Shops, parks, bars, restaurants, music – you can find almost anything with your iPhone. Now you can add registered sex offenders to the list. The Offender Locator app from ThinAir Wireless makes use of the national Registered Offenders Database and the GPS capabilities of the iPhone – enabling you to pinpoint sex offenders anywhere in the USA. ThinAir Wireless CEO Howard Wakefield stated that “The offender locator is kind of like the first step in peace of mind – who’s your neighbor”. And “peace of mind” is big business – Offender Locator has been a top-selling app in the App Store for almost a month.
Fire up Offender Locator and you’re presented with a main screen with three search options:
- Use Current Location – Utilizes GPS to find your location, then displays a list of offenders in your area.
- Contact’s Address – Check if any of your friends live near registered offenders. Uses address information from your contact list.
- Enter Street Address – Generate a list of offenders that live in proximity to any street address in the USA.
Offender Locator gives you the ability to not only find out where every registered offender lives, but you can also see their name, age, photo and actual offense.
Offender Locator costs $0.99 – even though the information it provides is already freely available on the web. Even if the app were free, it’s appearance on iTunes raises questions about whether this kind of information should be available on the iPhone at all. The Offender Locator is actually illegal in California, where it is against state law to profit from criminal information. That aside, the popularization of this information lends itself to vigilantism as well as unnecessary worry and panic.
While It’s always good to be informed of these kind of situations – particularly if you have young children – but this app feels like fear-mongering for the sake of profit.
Offender Locator requires iPhone OS 2.0 or later and is compatible with both the iPhone and iPod Touch.