CHICAGO (AP) -- Convicted child sex offenders living in suburban Cook County are now listed on the Internet by order of Sheriff Michael Sheahan.
Sheahan's move has already gotten the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which said putting the list on the Internet could greatly increase the potential of vigilante action and mistaken identity by making the public information so widely available.
But Sheahan downplayed the criticism Wednesday, saying that increased circulation of the list is necessary to help parents protect their children from ``pedophiles and perverts.''
The sheriff said he is the first government official in Illinois to make the list of registered child sex offenders available by computer.
Since the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act took effect in 1996, the public has been allowed to obtain from police departments the names and addresses of people residing in that town who are convicted child sex offenders.
Posting the names on the Internet should substantially increase the number of people who see it because few people now visit their police stations to ask for the list, Sheahan said.
Sheahan said that people who see the Internet list should discuss it with their neighbors and talk about protecting their children.
``Obviously, we don't encourage anybody to bother these people åon the listæ,'' he said when questioned about the possibility of vigilante actions.
The Web site (www.cookcountysheriff.org) currently lists 560 sex offenders.