If you check out most companies stories of how they came to exist, it’s usually something very nice and uplifting. Something very pleasing that in a movie can be presented in a 30 second montage to pop music.
For us, however, our story is vile, hair raising, and horrid. Unknowing having a registered sex offender near me and my family.
On June 6, 2021, my wife and I were suddenly woken up at 5 am by our 4 year old son Matteo. He usually let’s us sleep until 6 am, so it was a bit unusual the early wakeup call. Me: “Matteo (I said mumbling in bed), please go back to bed. It’s Saturday…” Matteo: “Dad, there’s people outside making noise”. Me: “It doesn’t matter, go back to sleep.”. Matteo: “What if they start shooting their guns?”… Me: “What?!?”
We immediately woke up and saw this outside his window.
Turns out ICE federal agents were arresting our next door neighbor for child pornography and underage solicitation. This guy was living in our apartment complex for over 12 months running a kiddie porn ring with his housemate. They both had active warrants and were registered sex offenders in other states.
At the moment we didn’t know why they were arresting the guy. I’ve seen him before many times walking their dogs and nodded to each other. Both seem nice and cordial. In this age of mobility and airbnbs, new neighbors come and go frequently. You really don’t know who lives next to you. But as soon as I saw ICE on the back of the arresting officers’ vest, I knew it had to be a sex offender.
As we spoke with the ICE officers, we found out how disturbing their crimes were. I’ll spare you the details. Their target? You guessed it, male kids 4-6 years old. Precisely the age and gender as Matteo. The officers arrested only one of the sex offenders. The police knew the other pedophile was involved and had active warrants in other states, but couldn’t arrest him on the spot. They would have to come back at a later date after getting a warrant from a judge.
Of course, the other sex offender would vanish before then. We tried to stalk him to alert the police when he tried to flee. We even bought a chain to lock him inside the apartment to keep him there. But to no avail. We put a camera in the window and later saw how he called 2 pedophiles buddies to aid him escape.
To this day, this criminal is still at large probably hurting unsuspecting kids and families. Thank God Matteo was not a victim. However, we felt we failed as parents just by having these monsters near him.
We later learned that most pedophiles now like to target younger kids rather than teens because they have not developed the cognitive reasoning to really understand what’s happening to them and language skills to properly tell adults. Purposely targeting this age group means there is a deliberation component to their actions. They choose to target the victims where they will improve their odds of success and reduce the chance they’ll get caught. Some suggest these people are sick individuals that act on impulse and can’t help themselves. I disagree. Sex offenders are monsters and should be treated accordingly.
We were lucky nothing happened to our children. We can’t imagine the suffering of millions of families that were not as lucky as we were and became victims. Most people would have simply shrugged it off and move on. Not us. We would not be blindsided again. No family should. That’s why we created Aware. A way for families to understand a little more about what’s around them and see dangers around the corner. A way for families to be a little safer.
You need drive and inspiration to create a company. Sometimes a close encounter with a monster is all it takes.