Editors' note: As of Thursday, August 6, the paid version of this app was pulled from the iTunes App Store by Apple, but the free version is still available.
Every neighborhood watch group and PTA parent knows that online crime statistics and sex offender databases have been available online for years. Now, Offender Locator for the iPhone or iPod Touch makes these statistics accessible via your phone. But is it useful to have this data on the go? Or does this app simply appeal to our baser fears and curiosities? We took a look at the app to find out.
Offender Locator, from ThinAir Wireless, is an iPhone App (iTunes link) that uses the GPS on your iPhone to locate registered sex offenders living near your current location. It also allows you to see if any registered offenders live near contacts in your address book and lets you manually look up a specific address. If the app discovers any registered sex offenders nearby, it displays a photo and the offense(s) they have committed.
We tested the app in Texas, and found Offender Locator to be fairly accurate compared with records kept by the local state government. The app displayed registered sex offenders on a map, pinpointing our location with a green bubble and the offenders' with red bubbles.
Unfortunately, the map isn't interactive, or at least not in the way we would have liked. You can pinch, zoom, and scroll the map, but you can't access the offender information by tapping one of the red bubbles. For now, you can only access the offender information (name, address, photo, crimes committed) from the Offender List screen.
The app is currently available in two versions: the lite version (iTunes link) is free, but lists only 10 offenders, has advertising, and limits you to five searches per day. The full version (iTunes link) costs 99 cents and has no limits. The app is compatible with the iPhone and iPod Touch running OS 2.0 or later.
Do you really want to know how creepy your neighbors might be? Is the information this app provides way too much information for most folks? Let us know what you think in the comments.