What you need to know about sex offenders

What you need to know about sex offenders
WASHINGTON -- Like it or not, there's a good chance you don't live too far from a sex offender. Sure, police try to keep tabs on them. But, it's up to you to find out if any are in your neighborhood. Action News dug deeper and discovered the information that's available varies across the state.

When she's inside, Mom Hilary Alexander knows her daughter's safe. But, when the playing moves outdoors, little Maggie is under close watch.

"I want her to have a normal childhood, but it is in the back of my mind that there are these people in our neighborhood," said Hilary.

A dozen level two and three sex offenders live within two miles of Hilary.

That number is much larger when you factor in level one offenders. You won't find them online, though. In Yakima, level one information is only available in a book at the sheriff's office.

In both Benton and King Counties, there's no book. But, you can request information about specific offenders. And in Franklin County you can only get this information for offenders who live nearby.

All across Washington State, home checks for level one offenders are only done once a year. Two checks for level twos and four for level three offenders.

Hilary says that's not enough.

"I just think for the first few years it should be tighter," said Hilary.

We also looked into how sex offenders across the state are classified. In Yakima and Benton Counties, an offender can be upgraded at any time if their assigned officer says so -- or if they commit another crime. King and Franklin counties automatically upgrade to level three for sex offenders who become homeless.

It's information Hilary will one day pass along to her daughter. But for now, basic safety is key.

"If there's a stranger in front of the house, if they ask if I want to go inside their car, I say no thanks and run inside," said Hilary's daughter Maggie.

We also looked into the number of new sex offenders entering Yakima County.

We learned deputies handle 10 to 20 new registrations a month. About half of those are old offenders moving back to the county or being released from jail. That's about the same in Benton County. There are 80 to 90 new registrations a month in King County.