Review: StaySafe

by Albert Wan Dec 21, 2009

If you are a parent there are many considerations in picking a neighborhood to raise one's children. Safety being paramaount, but up until now unless you've been married to an FBI agent you could never be sure where sex offenders might be lurking. Though there's no way to know for sure where such evil may be, knowing there are registered sex offenders who live in any given neighborhood, what they look like, and what they've done in the past, is one way to be forewarned so at least you don't

move in right next to one—thanks to StaySafe by HandStorm, Inc. ($1.99, free version available,


StaySafe tracks registered sex offenders all across the United States given a location by the iPhone's GPS signal and lists them by relative distance, name, and by physical characteristics.


The launch screen


The application is relatively straightforward and the interface is more or less intuitive and easy to use. When starting up, it automatically downloads information from the Family Watchdog servers ( and tracks your location before listing the number of sex offenders within a radius set by the user. When starting up the application, I found that StaySafe was taking anywhere from 10 seconds to a full minute to "retrieve data," depending on the radius and the location I was in.


Apparently, no matter where I was, there were always more than 100 sex offenders within five miles of where I lived, and StaySafe's assessment was always high or very high, as shown in the images below. I had then realized that I was always in an urban or suburban region, and that StaySafe recommends that some areas may need to modify its search radius in order to provide a more accurate assessment. For expansive rural areas, a five mile radius would be accurate; in suburban Los Angeles and urban Berkeley, five miles yields frightening results.


Assessment in my current location Assessment at Berkeley, CA


Adjusting the radius size was not an easy or intuitive task, as I soon realized. I searched every window pane and button within the app looking for a way to adjust the search radius, only to realize that it was actually in the Settings app. Having to shut down the app, swipe over to Settings only to make a small adjustment and relaunching the app was more of an annoyance, and probably what I believe is one of the biggest setbacks of the app.


List of Sex offenders nearby.


Results come out in a nice and clean list, displaying a picture and name of the offender, his/her relative distance from you or the location given, and a brief summary. Tapping a person reveals more details including the actual act committed. Users can also search a different region and have StaySafe assess that region as well, and takes address formats like the way the Maps app does. The app also has access to the phone's Contacts, allowing you to select a user's address and assess his/her's region without having to type anything.


Users are not only limited to search by distance: the application allows to search by name or description (sex, hair color, age, height, etc.). The user can then track an offender, report a sighting or report recent sightings. Tracking an offender would place him/her on the "watch" pane. What would be useful is a share or mail feature that would allow users to email the information to themselves or anyone concerned.


What will be most powerful to users is the maps feature, which uses Google Maps to display where the offenders' location is relative to yours. However, it doesn't seem to map anyone outside of the radius even when zooming out.


Pinpointing at a custom location


One bug I found from the maps was when searching a custom area, meaning one outside of your location. The map zooms out to where all points can be seen, sometimes spanning across the country. I'm sure this is a small fix: changing the location pin to the one given rather than the iPhone's GPS signal would fix it immediately. The application also doesn't seem to allow you to search your own location again without restarting the application.


The last pane, Resources, doesn't seem to do much except for an advertisement to sign up for Family Watchdog. This pane, I believe, could be better used for setting preferences or a shortcut to the map.


Overall, StaySafe provides valuable data and is a must-have app to future parents, families with kids and anyone assessing an unknown region for its number of sex offenders. It delivers information smoothly and without any hiccups when I was using it. The app still has some drawbacks and little features missing that would make it a killer app, some that a simple software update and fixes can add. StaySafe delivers what it promises, and I recommend it to those concerned with crime and sex offenders.




-Lists sex offenders in a given radius quickly and effectively

-Lists details of their actions easily

-Allows customizable searches, ranging from location to sex to hair color

-Maps the location of results relative to current location



-Mapping when at a customized location (i.e. not the current location the iPhone is at) leaves a large map since the app maps it relative to the current location by the GPS.

-Preferences for search radii and sorting are not located within the app.

-"Resources" pane seems to be more like clutter on the bottom. It feels like it can be combined with a settings pane or another pane. 


Conclusion: If you're a parent concerned with your child's living area or anyone who wants all the facts about a place before going, this app is for you.


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