GREENVILLE, N.C.– Tonight, we’re doing a 9 On Your Side investigation into sex offenders and how you can track them down in your neighborhood.
Just yesterday, Greenville police arrested 18-year-old Omar Johnson. He is charged with two counts of first degree sex offense against a child and three counts of indecent liberties with a child.
This comes on the heels of a sex offender – 38-year-old Timothy Newman – reportedly abducting a 12-year-old girl from her Carteret County home last week. Abigale Lefevers is now how safe with her family, but the story of her apparent abduction is hard to forget.
So, 9 On Your Side found out what you can do as a parent to protect your own children.
Sgt. Joe Friday of the Greenville Police Department says knowledge is power, so do your research.
To find sex offenders near you, go to the North Carolina Dept. of Justice website and click on their sex offender registry. Enter your street address and then select the mile radius around your home you want to search. When you click on the orange rover, the offender's name, address and picture pop up. The department also offers mobile apps that do the same thing.
It’s great resource -- but Friday says more often than not, strangers aren't the danger.
"Strangers attacking kids, while that's a possibility, that doesn't occur, or hasn't occurred, as much as people who come in contact with kids on a day to day basis and have easy opportunities to victimize children,” he says.
And Newman was no stranger to Abigale.
According to an affidavit from the FBI, he began his relationship with Abigale in June and continued seeing her even after police arrested him for texting her inappropriate messages.
Child development expert Sandra Triebenbacher, PhD, says pedophiles often build trust with a child and then manipulate them into thinking an inappropriate relationship is okay.
She says protecting your child is all about open communication and involvement.
"Be a part of your child's life,” she says. “Know what he or she is doing. Be part of their activities. Be present. Be there physically and emotionally for your children."
Triebenbacher says sexual abuse is a traumatizing experience that can make it difficult for a child to trust someone again. She says it is never the child's fault and we need to let them know they have ownership over their bodies and no one has the right to invade their private space. So, tell them they can come to you for help.