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Worcester Sex Offenders Migrating To Main South

Friday, October 05, 2012

 

The number of registered level 3 sex offenders living in Worcester has more than doubled in the past six years, with the majority concentrated in the city's Main South area.

In 2006, the city was home to 91 registered level 3 sex offenders, individuals who were determined to pose a high risk of re-offense and a degree of dangerousness significant enough to warrant the active dissemination of their registration information by the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board in the interest of public safety.

That number rose significantly over the next half-dozen years, and 201 registered level 3 sex offenders currently resident in Worcester, about half of whom live in District 4.

The influx of registered sex offenders to the district has become an issue of increasing concern among residents, community groups and elected officials.

"I believe we're starting to become the hub of level 3 sex offenders," said Bill Breault, chairman of the Main South Alliance for Public Safety.

"It's been going on for a long time and it doesn't seem to be getting better."

Calls for More Regulation

Acting on behalf of the Main South Alliance for Public Safety, Breault petitioned the City Council on Tuesday to take several actions regarding the growing issue, including creating an ordinance that would prohibit level 3 sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of a school, park or education facility serving K-12 students, an ordinance to prohibit landlords from renting to more than one level 3 sex offender in a single building address, and to commission reports from Community Healthlink and the South Middlesex Opportunity Council regarding the number of difficult to house released prisoners at their facilities.

Several Councilors voiced their support for the measures, and the petitions will be sent to the City's Law Department for review to determine whether or not such ordinances could be instituted.

"I don't know if it's realistic, what's being proposed, but I'm very excited to have this conversation," said District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera.

"We can't continue to just leave the status quo. We definitely have to have a discussion."

Why District 4?

Former District 4 Councilor Barbara Haller spent a significant amount of time and effort working on the issue and trying to develop solutions during her tenure at City Hall.

"I think there's a number of forces at play," she said, "and unfortunately, I think all those forces play to the inner city."

According to Haller, a major contributor to the elevated number of level 3 sex offenders living in Main South is the housing and real estate makeup of the district. The area is home to a number of rooming houses, which appeal to a more transient population. In addition, many of the neighborhood's rental properties are owned by absentee landlords, who Haller said are not as engaged in the management of the units, providing an opportunity for individuals who may have been screen out of other housing arrangements to secure a place to live without facing as much scrutiny.

Housing assistance programs may also play an inadvertent role in the rising number of level 3 sex offenders in the area. Landlords guaranteed an on-time rent check each month from the government might be willing to take on tenants they normally would pass over.

Making Progress

While the district's level 3 sex offender population has continued to rise, Haller and other concerned parties did make progress on the problem. She said the Worcester Housing Authority no longer allows such high-risk individuals to live in its facilities, and some of the area's non-profit housing organizations have taken similar steps.

"The Worcester Police Department in particular has done a very good job of knowing where the level 3 sex offenders are and monitoring their whereabouts."

However, there is still more work to be done.

"I support all of the things that Bill has put forward," said Haller, noting the 1000-foot limit as a potentially effective tool for keeping level 3 sex offenders away from areas where children congregate.

"This may be the right time, right place. We'll see." 

 

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