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They Seemed Nice
They seem so nice: the young woman applying for the nanny position, the retired professor down the street, the young man on the college swim team. We trust strangers a lot, and most of the time, we’re completely fine. However, before you date someone, sign a roommate agreement, or turn over your kids to a stranger, it’s a wise idea to do a quick background check. Even if your search for police reports and court cases only turns up a minor misdemeanor and not something dramatic such as a felony, it’s important to know your facts.

Online Resources
Many public records are available online. Online criminal record resources exist if you want to find out if someone has a warrant, find out if someone has been arrested, or just look up court records to check for a DUI, a misdemeanor, a felony, or legal registration for sex offenders in a given area.

Erie County Resources
One of the best resources for residents of Erie County is the Erie County Clerk’s Official Records Public Search website. The Erie County Clerk’s site offers basic and advanced search options that allow you to search and (in some cases) save records and images.

Encounters with the Law
For a deeper data dive, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office allows website users to look at mugshots and brief records for citizens with outstanding warrants for their arrest. Additionally, the Erie County Sheriff’s Department maintains a webpage briefly listing news reports of crimes as far back as 2015 for easy searches.

Jail Inmate Search
Investigating current inmates in New York State requires you to access the easy-to-use Department of Corrections and Community Supervision site. With the exception of youthful offenders and others covered under special legal circumstances, everyone confined in state prison in New York since the 1970s is listed in this database.

Sex Offender Search
Perhaps the most important searches we can do — particularly before moving into a new neighborhood or hiring a caregiver for our child or elderly relatives — is to check the background information of any applicant through the New York State sex offender registry to find out if someone is a registered sex offender. It’s impossible to check every court docket by hand, so this website also contains access to the National Sex Offender Registry as well. Inquiries about specific individuals may also be made through this website’s contact information.

Check Yourself Too
One person we often forget to check is someone very important: ourselves. If you’re looking for a job or applying for housing, or are assuming the care of a child, it’s important to ask, “Do I have a warrant?” Using those resources for Erie County, you can check the accuracy of your own records — and most importantly, verify the information a future employer may see. There may be specific legal limitations on the court records or public information available to your employer, so always be armed with the facts.