Here’s one of those stories that’s so forehead-slappingly obvious it makes you wonder why, exactly, it’s news: Residents of poor neighborhoods are shocked to find registered sex offenders living among them, and where you find one, you tend to find many.
The house at 3514 Canal is an extreme example of a trend that’s beginning to concern many cities: clusters of sex offenders that infect low-income neighborhoods.
The Canal rooming house is just one of 16 sex offender residences clustered in an area of about a square mile just east of downtown and south of Buffalo Bayou.
The area takes in one other multiple-offender address, a small apartment building in the 400 block of Hutcheson where three registered sex offenders live.
That’s a total of 24 registered sex offenders in the area. All but two were convicted of offenses involving children.
Look, I don’t mean to make light of legitimate concerns here, but where do you think registered sex offenders are going to live? Every time one of them turns up in a “good” neighborhood, it leads the local TV newscast that night amidst screaming graphics that ask “Could They Be Next Door To You?”
The problem is growing in other cities as well.
The Arizona Legislature has formed the House Ad Hoc Sex Offender Clustering Committee to deal with the problem there.
In St. Petersburg, Fla., civic associations are banding together to fight sex offender clusters at cheap motels revealed in a St. Petersburg Times article last year.
Again, where else are they going to live? We’ve broadened the definition of “sex offender” these days to the point where it covers a lot of relatively minor crimes, so locking them up for good is not really an option. Given that many of them will sooner or later be back on the streets, would you rather have them clustered or spread out? Which is the greater risk?
Probation and parole rules prevent registered child sex offenders from living near places where children gather: schools, daycares, parks, playgrounds, youth centers, public pools, video arcades.
“It’s so limited, so strict,” Enax said, “and there are so many parks and schools.”
Yet another reason why you’d expect to find them grouped together. There’s only so many places they can be without violating parole. Some of them can’t visit their attorneys without violating parole. I’m certainly not going to weep for them, but it seems a bit hysterical to put such stringent restrictions on their movements and then get bent out of shape when you realize they’re all in the same places.
Although studies proliferate on recidivism among sex offenders and how it is affected by treatment, notification laws and other factors, no research could be found on whether living in proximity to other sex offenders affected them negatively, or at all.
We sure will feel silly if it turns out this has no negative effect on their treatment and recidivism, won’t we?
I certainly understand why people would be frightened and upset to realize that a bunch of sex offenders live in their neighborhood. All I’m saying is, what are we going to do about it that won’t simply push the problem into someone else’s neighborhood?