WASHINGTON – State-by-state information on sex offenders (search) will be available on a new Internet site run by the federal government, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced Friday.
Participation by states is voluntary, and the Justice Department said it hopes to have the site up and running within two months.
The announcement was being made to coincide with National Missing Children's Day.
The site won't provide any information not already made available on the Internet by nearly all of the states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. But it will be designed to allow someone to do a national search to determine whether an individual who has been convicted in one state has moved to another.
"With this technology, every citizen and law enforcement officer will be able to search the latest information for the identity and location of known sex offenders," Gonzales said in remarks prepared for delivery later Friday at the National Press Club.
Most states publish the names, photos and backgrounds of people convicted of a variety of sex crimes, particularly those involving children. But different rules apply as to what information can be accessed.
In Florida, for example, state officials this week expanded the area that residents can check, up to a five-mile radius from their home or school. For years, the search could only encompass the same zip code.
The change followed several highly publicized child abductions and killings, including the slaying of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford (search). John Couey (search), the man authorities say has confessed to the crime, is a registered sex offender who was living 150 yards from Lunsford's home in Homosassa, Fla.