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Public Hearing in Olympia Focuses on Sex Offender Housing Vouchers

Puyallup residents traveled to Olympia on Tuesday to support for a bill sponsored by House Rep. Hans Zeiger (Puyallup) that would place more limitation on the housing program for sex offenders.

House leaders on the House Public Safety Committee heard public testimony on Tuesday, Jan. 29 on a bill that would place new conditions on the housing voucher program for sex offenders, specifically Level 3 - the most likely to reoffend.

Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup and a co-sponsor of the measure said current law lacks necessary parameters.

“When residents in the Shaw Road neighborhood in Puyallup learned about a potential house for sex offenders last summer it showed us that we need new safeguards,” said Zeiger. “There needs to be better notification provisions and compliance with zoning policies. We must also require a specific distance between facilities that house registered sex offenders and child care facilities and schools so we know our neighborhoods are safe for children.”

Specifically, House Bill 1232 adds five conditions to the housing voucher program for sex offenders:

  • Rules for property owners to notify local governments about intended facilities for sex offenders.
  • Requires facility compliance with local zoning policies and other regulations.
  • A maximum of three registered sex offenders in one location.
  • Department of Corrections notification to local governments regarding the name and risk level of offenders.
  • Requires distance between facilities that house registered sex offenders, and requires distance from schools and child-care facilities.

A number of residents from Puyallup showed up to testify in favor of the legislation, including councilmember John Knutson.

"Our biggest complaint here is the gathering of these people... to put them in a think tank or brain pool is not correct," Knutson told the Public Safety Committee. "Putting them out in the community individually and seperate from each other eases the public's mind--to know there is one person, opposed to six."

Puyallup assistant city attorney Steve Kirkelie encouraged the senators to address the "preemption language" of the law as it stands now and pass this bill to give cities more muscle in this kind of situation.

"This is a very focused, very limited piece of legislation," Kirkelie said. "Until you address that preemption language and give us the tools to address it, there is nothing we can do."

Residents and city leaders from Marysville also came to express their support for this piece of legislature and told the committee troubling stories of established neighborhoods "destroyed" by group homes for sex offenders.

"We've always had a large number of sex offenders in Marysville and it's never been a problem, but this is a whole new phenomenon," said mayor Jon Nehring. "In one situation, we have 10 registered sex offenders living in one house. Businesses around it are closing, people are abandoning their homes. The neighborhood isn't thriving like it used to."

A Marysville resident commented that since a sex offender group home moved in to her neighborhood, her life has changed dramatically. She started noticing men wandering around the neighborhood, empty alcohol containers everywhere and strange cars picking up men and returning them at all hours of the day. She said that when she tried to move out of the area, she couldn't sell her house. Or rent it.

Read more about the Marysville issue on KOMO News.

"The 'American dream' is being stolen from these residents, because of the unintended consequences of this [voucher program]," said Puyallup planning commissioner Steve Hastings.

The committee did not take any action on the bill, but could vote on it in the next few weeks.

The companion bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 5105 sponsored by Sen. Bruce Dammeier, will be heard in the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. in the Cherberg Building in Olympia, hearing room 1.

Do you think changing voucher laws at the state level will help cities like Puyallup control sex offender housing? Tell us in the comments. 

9oj January 31, 2013 at 07:54 PM
Are all sex offenders the same?
Lauren Padgett (Editor) January 31, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Good question! No they are not. Here's a breakdown of the 3 classifications used by law enforcement: RISK LEVEL 1: Level 1 sex offenders present the lowest risk for re-offense to the community at large. Some sample characteristics: • These individuals normally have not exhibited predatory type characteristics • Most have successfully participated or are participating in approved sex offender treatment programs. • Many are first time offenders. RISK LEVEL 2: Level 2 sex offenders generally present a moderate risk to re-offend within community at large. Some sample characteristics: • These individuals may be considered a Level 2 sex offender because of the nature of previous crime(s). • For some Level 2 sex offenders, lifestyle (drugs and alcohol use, other criminal activity) may influence their potential to reoffend. • These individuals often have; more than one victim and/or took advantage of a position of trust and authority, such as a teacher, coach, clergy, or babysitter. RISK LEVEL 3: Level 3 sex offenders pose a high risk to re-offend within the community at large. Some sample characteristics: • Most have prior sex crime convictions as well as other criminal convictions. • Some have predatory characteristics and may seek out victims unknown to the offender. • These individuals may have used violence in their crime. • These individuals may have refused or failed to complete approved sex offender treatment programs.
Extremely Disgruntled February 02, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Then you can get some "imports" from the State of Ohio, who class offenders who have committed only-in-Ohio statutory adult with adult "crimes" into Tier 3, for something that is legal everywhere else in the world. ORC codes 2907.03 -A5 -A7 and -A11, which are the anti step-parent, anti College Teacher, and anti Corrections employee statutes when used specifically on consenting adults. Abuse of authority should always be a crime, but when these two adults consent, it is still against Ohio law. These people are registering for LIFE every 90 days, or the equivalent of level 3 in your state. How fair is that? On the registry for something LEGAL in your state? Hmmm. Something needs some fixing...
Jim February 08, 2013 at 06:54 AM
http://www.doc.state.mn.us/documents/04-07SexOffenderReport-Proximity.pdf

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