Monday, March 17, 2008

Residents protest "stacking" of sex offenders

Dozens of south Bakersfield residents gathered Tuesday night to talk about sex offenders living in their neighborhood.

Parents said they’re frightened and feel their area has become a dumping ground for sex offenders.

With signed petitions in hand, Jim Starkey said he’s ready for a fight.

“What is it going to be, 100, 120?” said Starkey. “How many hotel rooms do these guys have here that they think they can use?”

Starkey operates the Rosegarden Residential Care Home on Union Avenue, a facility for people with mental disabilities like Down Syndrome.

Starkey isn’t happy about his new neighbors to the north. Nine registered sex offenders moved into the El Don Motel, just feet from his facility.

”I want my employees to be safe,” said Starkey. “I want my developmentally disabled clients to be safe.”

Maria Lopez said she’s fed up with sex offenders being stacked by the dozen in motels on S. Union Avenue.

Lopez said there are three school bus stops just a couple hundred feet away from the motel.

“We were not made aware of it,” said Lopez. “We want them out of here.”

Lopez heard about our story a few weeks ago about dozens of other sex offenders paroled at the Bakersfield Lodge.

Wednesday, the Megan’s Law website said there are 31 offenders living at the Lodge, leaving Lopez to wonder if her neighborhood has become a dumping ground.

“We had neighbors tell us about the Bakersfield Lodge, and then all these others started coming out,” said Lopez.

Parole director John Bailey was out of town Wednesday, but 17 News spoke with him just a few weeks ago about the offenders living at the Bakersfield Lodge.

“When residents say, well there are 20 sex offenders living in that hotel, they can be assured that those 20 sex offenders are on electronic monitoring, that their every move is monitored 24 hours per day, 7 days per week,” Bailey said a few weeks ago.

Bailey said he’s doing his best under tight laws that limit where offenders can life.

“My high risk sex offender agents only supervise 20 people each, so there's a 1:20 ratio there,” he said.

State Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) said that isn’t good enough.

He intends to pressure the Board of Supervisors to put a safe zone around the fairgrounds.

Parents at Tuesday’s rally said they would be vigilant. They’re passing around packets with pictures of the sex offenders living in the area.

Florez said he was talking with Supervisor Michael Rubio about drafting an ordinance to be introduced at an upcoming board meeting.

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