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Efforts grow to keep tabs on sex offenders

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Hundreds of cities and 15 states have laws that restrict where sex offenders can live. Now, private businesses are getting into the act of protecting residents from this group, too.

A Texas developer, for instance, is building "sex offender free subdivisions" here and in Kansas, and a new national website, started by a Texan, lists homes for sale that have no registered sex offenders living within a half-mile radius.

It's all part of a wide-ranging effort to address Americans' concerns about sex offenders living next door.

Just Thursday, President Bush signed into law what child advocates are calling the most sweeping sex-offender legislation in 25 years: the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, named for the murdered son of "America's Most Wanted" host, John Walsh.

By creating a national database that links the already federally mandated state registries, the new law – among other things – will make it harder for sex offenders to take advantage of varying state laws to avoid detection. It creates a new federal felony charge, punishable by 10 years in prison for failing to update their contact information, and categorizes them by tiers so that resources can be targeted at the most dangerous offenders, says Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which pushed the measure.

More than 563,000 people in the US have been convicted of sexual offenses – and 100,000 are noncompliant, meaning they have failed to keep up with registry laws, says Mr. Allen. "That is just not acceptable," he adds. "Those who won't even comply with the simple minimum requirements of identifying where they are and what they're doing pose the greatest risks. This legislation is aimed at training the nation's resources on that group."

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