Cobb sheriff rolls out new tech to keep track of sex offenders

Feb. 28—MARIETTA — Anyone who has the free Cobb County Sheriff's Office mobile app will now be able to keep track of registered sex offenders in the county.

Cobb Sheriff Craig Owens announced at a press conference Tuesday that there are just over 600 registered sex offenders in Cobb, and the new feature from OffenderWatch will help keep the community safe in different ways.

"It will let you see, on your phone, our registered sex offenders in Cobb County," Owens said. "No matter where you are in the county, it will show where they are."

Owens said the partnership between OffenderWatch and the Cobb Sheriff's Office's app will save his deputies time and money, as they will now be able to see when sex offenders move out of the county through the app.

OffenderWatch's technology will also give the sheriff's office the chance to collaborate more closely with other law enforcement agencies, such as the U.S. Marshals Service, on sex crime investigations.

F.J. Eastman, OffenderWatch's national business director, said the technology connects a parent's phone with their child's, allowing parents to track when their children encounter a sex offender.

"The parent will get an alert from Sheriff Owens, branded from Sheriff Owens' office, 'Please contact Cobb County Sheriff's Office, this guy has contacted your child,'" Eastman said.

He said parents will also receive notifications when their children are in the area of a known sex offender.

Eastman also talked about a "no-go zone" on the app, which allows parents to enter the addresses of people they do not want their children to be around and get notified when their child is with that person.

Kevin Cummings, whose company created the Cobb Sheriff's Office app about a year ago, said the partnership with OffenderWatch is for $500 and comes at no cost to Georgia taxpayers.

Though there was previously a sex offender map on the app, OffenderWatch's offering goes beyond that.

"Now, it also provides additional functionalities and additional menus to allow the citizens of Cobb County to receive information," Cummings said.

Added features include the ability to search for sex offenders by name, address and even telephone number.

Cummings said he found OffenderWatch's email notification system to be one of the most beneficial additions to the Cobb Sheriff's app.

He also noted that information about how to recognize warning signs and behaviors of sex offenders and resources for how to talk to one's children about possible threats are included with the OffenderWatch update.

Cummings added that Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties have apps his company developed, though Cobb's is the only one to form the partnership with OffenderWatch.

"In this day and age, when you look at law enforcement, having that direct tie to the community to make it easier for them to receive information and provide information is critical," Cummings said.