The easiest method for determining whether a pedophile is living in your neighborhood is to consult one of the many sex offender databases which are posted on the internet by your state government, the federal government, and various child advocacy organizations. One of the more comprehensive sites is the National Sex Offender Public Registry located at http://www.nsopr.gov. Using this site, you can search for sex offenders by state, by county, by city, and even by zip code. This will enable you to narrow your search to your local geographic area, so you can review the profiles of sex offenders in your neighborhood and determine where they live.
In reviewing the profiles of the convicted sex offenders, make sure to review not only their current address, but also the offense for which they were convicted. While many of the people in those databases have committed terrible crimes, there are some people who are subject to community notification based on convictions for actions which are not much more serious than being normal hormonally-charged teenagers. For example, an 18 year old boy who engaged in consensual "heavy petting" with his 15 year old girlfriend may be convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, or if they had consensual sex he may have been convicted of rape solely because of the age of the girl. While the boy may have exercised poor judgment and technically violated the law, he should not be looked upon with the same fear or disdain as when, for example, such an action is committed by a middle-aged man with a young child. Look closely at the conviction, the offender's age at the time of conviction, whether the offender spent any time in prison, and any information that is provided about the offense itself to help evaluate the seriousness of the risk to your child.
If you cannot find satisfactory information through the sex offender websites, you can contact the court where the person was convicted to obtain a copy of the court file. In some areas, you may be able to access this information online. In other places, you may have to go to the courthouse in person to look at the case file. Unless the offender was treated as a juvenile or youthful offender, much of the information about the conviction will be a matter of public record. Other than redactions made to the file to protect the identity of the victim, you should be able to obtain a copy of the court file to study for yourself. You can find out the best procedure for obtaining this information by calling the county clerk, or by asking for assistance from a local lawyer.
Despite these precautions, parents should be aware that the threat to their children rarely comes from the stranger in the neighborhood. Most sex offenses against children are actually committed by a trusted friend or family member, with it often happening in the child's own home. It is very typical for the offender to be someone the child knows, loves, and trusts. While the sex offender database is useful for making sure you do not allow a convicted sex offender into your home, it does not help with the most common scenarios in which sexual abuse takes place. Thus, most protection of children comes not from public databases, but from parental awareness of the aberrant behavior of those spending time with their children.
For more information on how to identify sex offenders based on their behavior, websites such as http://www.beachildshero.com and http://www.csom.org can provide useful guidance and advice. Never be too quick to accuse someone of abusive behavior, but never ignore the warning signs either.