So you think your new suitor, sitter, boss or neighbor really rocks?

Try lifting a few rocks at before sidling up to this latest “friend.”

“Do you really know who people are?” the new Web site asks ominously.

Bryce Lane is president and chief executive of, which launched last week.

He calls the site the “most comprehensive source of criminal data online.”

Punch in a name, and the snoop site ferrets out millions of public records to find an individual’s criminal history – anything from traffic tickets to sex offenses to murder.

With another of its tools, you can type in an address and see a Google map with the names, addresses and criminal histories of nearby ex-convicts.

For sex offenders, there’s even a photo.

“Whether on a date, renting a room, spending time with neighbors or meeting new friends, people have the right, and now the means, to know if there is a criminal in their life,” Lane’s firm says in a news release.

That “right” has come at a price: A host of competitors in the red-hot “people search” industry offer services ranging from a $7 basic criminal background check to a full-bore private-eye pry for $300 or more.

“Now it’s free,” proclaimed Lane. (He insists, by the way, that he is not the same Bryce Lane who, according to, pleaded guilty to two speeding charges in North Carolina back in 1982.)

The new Web site’s parent company,, is one of the most successful and aggressive pay-for-backgrounder-data competitors. Over the past 20 years, it has amassed thousands of public-records databases – marriages, divorces, births, deaths, phone records, property transfers, lawsuits and more. For a fee, mines that data for a wide range of clients with an even wider range of needs. The Sacramento, Calif., firm decided to split off the cops-and-courts records into a free-to-use site.

Other sites on the Web tout themselves as “free” criminal-records portals. But they generally are little more than indexes – aggregators of links to hundreds of separate state and county databases. A thorough search by a prospective employer, landlord or parent would mean checking them all one at a time – the kind of tedium that would drive users to pay someone to do it for them. By coincidence, of course, the vendors offering the “free” indexes also offer to do the background check themselves, for a fee.

The folks at, though, figured a free record-checking site would draw so much traffic that it could generate even more revenue from advertisers than it would have from users. In the site’s first week, the Internet buzz it generated drew so many users that Lane’s firm had to add new server computers to keep from slowing to a crawl or crashing.

But the searcher has blind spots, Lane concedes. Even though court records are all public, it’s up to individual states, counties and local courts to decide how to make them available, and some jurisdictions won’t release or sell entire databases wholesale to resellers. So the only truly comprehensive criminal-check database is one that hardly anyone outside law enforcement can use – the FBI’s National Crime Information Center.

Consequently, the data that compiles don’t include every jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, criminal records from the Cuyahoga, Medina, Lorain or Summit county courts are among those it doesn’t see.

So a check of the neighborhood you might be considering buying into could show a handful of bad-apple neighbors busted in Portage County or Portland, Ore., but omit a locally convicted kidnapper or drug kingpin.

And unless a perp from one of those counties is currently in a state prison, subject to prison authorities’ post-release supervision or in a nationwide sex-offender database, a search on the crook’s name could come up deceptively blank. On the other hand, it can be deceptively full – of dark and closeted skeletons such as improper lane changes, fishing without a license and open-container violations. Sometimes the minutiae of those charges is clear; other times, the data are so incomplete that a user can’t tell whether the “crime” was making speed in a meth lab or merely speeding in a school zone.

Acquitted? Charges dropped? Too long ago to care or remember? No matter – the blot still may show up.

But so will the fact that your ex-husband just got popped for DUI (again), or the detail that the gal who asked you out last night looks better in person than she does in her prison mug shot.

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